(Photo by the PBA Media Bureau)
The Gin Kings held a double-digit lead but faltered when it matters the most
A few weeks ago, the San Miguel Beermen were about to get kicked by the worst team in the PBA and yet, they came out victorious. In last night's Game 2 of their best-of-7 semifinal series against the Barangay Ginebra Gin Kings, the Beermen were down by double digits in most part of the game and yet, they won. In overtime.
In both instances: there was one common denominator: Marcio Lassiter.
Marcio Lassiter, time and again, proved that San Miguel is more than just about June Mar Fajardo and Arwind Santos as Lassiter grabbed the offensive rebound and scored on a lay-up with 3 seconds left in the extra period and then Scottie Thompson committed a ball handling violation which sealed up the Beermen's 104-102 victory which moved San Miguel within two wins away from another Finals appearance.
While being down 0-2 in a series is something that is not new to a team like Ginebra, the Gin Kings just put themselves in a horrible situation because aside from being down two games, they have to remember that there's no assurance that their star center, Greg Slaughter will be playing for Game 3 which means they will need to rely on Japeth Aguilar, Joe Devance and yes, even Prince Caperal who had 26 points and 8 rebounds in last night's Game 2, for Game 3 and beyond.
What are the things that Ginebra need to do for Game 3?
Defense. Defense. Defense.
Ginebra allowed June Mar Fajardo to score 33 points and grabbed 19 rebounds last night. They also allowed Marcio Lassiter to score 25 points. In fact, it was Fajardo and Lassiter who scored the crucial baskets down the stretch for the Beermen.
Last night's Game 2 proved not only the fact that San Miguel can come back from a 4th quarter deficit to win it late in the final seconds but also the painful fact that Ginebra's problems have been on the defensive side and not on the offensive side because they had 5 guys who scored in double figures and led as much as 15 points.
They cannot allow San Miguel to score 54 points in the paint alone. They cannot allow San Miguel to score 30 points from turnovers. They gotta defend not just one but 5 stars of the Beermen. For starters. June Mar Fajardo shot 11 for 18 from the field. That's a 61% field goal shooting, folks.
Solution: Strengthen their defensive intensity especially against the Beermen's starting 5. Otherwise, this series will be shorter than everyone predicted.
Tenorio Must Wake Up
Sure, LA Tenorio had 5 rebounds, 7 assists, and 2 steals but only scored 8 points on 3 for 11 shooting in Game 2. While it's admirable that Tenorio found other ways to make himself useful, we all know that when Tenorio is scoring big time, it enhances Ginebra's chances of winning and unfortunately for the Gin Kings, Tenorio hasn't barged the 10-point barrier during the first two games of the series. In effect, Ginebra is two defeats away from a semifinal exit.
If LA Tenorio can start lighting it up in Game 3, that should be a big help in Ginebra's chances of coming back alive into the series.
There's no denying the fact that Ginebra put themselves in a dangerous situation of being swept when they allowed June Mar Fajardo, Arwind Santos and, Marcio Lassiter to take over when the game was on the line. But to begin with, Ginebra also had 20 turnovers including the last one committed by Scottie Thompson which sealed the Gin Kings' fate. With Greg Slaughter likely to miss Game 3, Ginebra is now in a must-win situation and they must find a way to shut down Fajardo and the rest of the league's best starting unit. Otherwise, even if Tim Cone manages to get the venue filled with Ginebra faithfuls, if his team doesn't show their Never Say Die mantra, it's going to be useless.
In fact, San Miguel appeared to be the "Never Say Die" team in Game 2.