San Miguel 109 – Brgy. Ginebra 82
About a year ago, Chris Ross took the spotlight of the 2016 Philippine Cup Finals. The San Miguel Beermen had lost three straight games. History was against them. No team had ever come back from a 0-3 deficit.
But Ross rose to the occasion. He powered San Miguel back in the series and eventually, their second consecutive All-Filipino title. By leading his team, he earned his first-ever PBA Finals MVP.
When someone says “he led his team,” it automatically suggests the presumption that he did it by putting the ball in the hoop. It usually means he dropped 30 or 40 points, or made the game-winning basket.
Chris Ross did none of those when the Beermen made history against Alaska.
All he did was play defense.
Chris went on and played excellent defense for the rest of the season. He was the clear choice for the Defensive Player of the Year award. He embraced that role. He understood that there were enough offensive options for SMB. And by accepting his responsibility on the team, Ross made the Beermen better.
For a long time, that’s what I thought, that the Beermen were at their best when Ross focused on defense. Because the other four guys on the starting unit can do the scoring. Marcio Lassiter, Arwind Santos, Alex Cabagnot and June Mar Fajardo should be the ones getting buckets. While Chris Ross got busy stopping opponents from getting theirs.
Apparently, I thought wrong.
Here in the 2017 Philippine Cup playoffs, Ross has unveiled a part of his game that has always taken a backseat. Out of nowhere, Chris Ross has started scoring. In bunches. And it opened up a Narnia of opportunities for the Beermen.
Now, they get to run a lethal pick-and-roll between Cabagnot and Ross. Now, they have to respect Chris’ penetration instead of just waiting for him to find June Mar or Marcio. Now, defenders need to rush out to Ross’ outside shot, freeing up a one-pass-away Arwind.
Last night proved that point. Ross finished with 17 points, five rebounds and eight assists. He and June Mar were the game leaders in points. But even in some of the shots that Fajardo made, you could say it was Chris who made them possible.
It’s almost unfair. When you defend that well, you’re not supposed to be able to score anymore. Not that much, at least. But Chris Ross has emerged a legitimate offensive option for San Miguel.
Chris elevated his game. In the process, he has also taken San Miguel to greater heights. And while Fajardo remains to be the biggest strength of the team, the little guy from Texas has blossomed into full MVP-material for the Beermen.
It’s only been one game. But Ross could be on his way to another Finals MVP. And with him on the lead, the Beermen could be on their way to the perpetual Philippine Cup trophy.
Source: SLAM Philippines