Photo by the PBA Media Bureau
Heading into last night's Game 1 of the best-of-7 Philippine Cup Finals series, the word "dominance" has been consistently associated with the defending champions, the San Miguel Beermen, as they are tagged as favorites to win their 4th consecutive PBA Philippine championship against a hungrier team, the Magnolia Hotshots, who just made it back to the championship round after 4 unfruitful years. In fact, the Beermen have been tagged as favorites to dominate the all-Filipino conference because they have the best all-Filipino starting unit.
True enough, 4 of their 5 starters scored in double figures but their efforts went straight to the trash can as Ian Sangalang and the rest of the Hotshots surprised the fabled Beermen with a 105-103 victory to claim Game 1 of the championship series. To begin with, this was one of those games that the Beermen should have won due to the fact that they were up by double digits throughout the early stretch of the game so yes, hearing Magnolia beat San Miguel is stunning, indeed.
So what did the Beermen do in Game 1 which they shouldn't do in tomorrow's Game 2 and beyond? Below are those things:
Too Much Dependability on their Starters
Out of the 103 points that San Miguel scored, 102 of those came from their starters. Yep. June Mar Fajardo had 31 points and 18 rebounds. Alex Cabagnot had 27 points, 9 rebounds and 9 assists while Marcio Lassiter and Arwind Santos had 21 and 19 respectively. The lone starter who failed to score in double figures was Matt Ganuelas-Rosser who started for Chris Ross. Ganuelas-Rosser had 4 points in 32 minutes.
Chris Ross did score the lone point for the Beermen's bench.
In the end, even Coach Leo Austria admitted that his decision to give extended minutes to his starters fire-backed in the endgame.
In contrast, Aldrech Ramos and Rome Dela Rosa had 15 and 11 while coming off the bench for Chito Victolero, providing the much-needed reinforcements for Ian Sangalang and Mark Barroca especially with Paul Lee struggling to finish Game 1 with only 4 points on 2 for 13 shooting.
Solution: If you remember back in their semifinal series against the Barangay Ginebra Gin Kings, bench production was also one of the Beermen's weaknesses but unlike in Game 1 of the Finals, the Beermen were able to get more juice from guys like Gabby Espinas, Brian Heruela, and even Von Pessumal during the semifinals. Leo Austria must get back to giving his bench players more minutes especially against a more solidified team like Magnolia.
Lack of Defense
Just to show you how horrible San Miguel's defense was last night, below are some number that Magnolia was able to produce:
- Second-chance points: 33 points
- Points in the paint: 44 points
- Fastbreak points: 13 points
- Points off turnovers: 20 points
- Bench Points: 47 points
- Ian Sangalang: 29 points on 13 for 19 shooting
Sure, the Beermen were able to shut down the Leethal Weapon but what about Ian Sangalang? What about Mark Barroca. The failure of San Miguel to impose their defensive strength cost them Game 1 aside from the fact that they just allowed Magnolia to come back from a 20-point deficit.
Solution: Show defensive intensity. Don't allow the big men of Magnolia to match your inside strength like what happened in Game 1. Sure, San Miguel had 7 blocks last night but Magnolia had 13 steals which enabled them to run on the break more often. This series will be a contest between offense and defense and in Game 1, the defense of Magnolia won it for the Hotshots. For tomorrow's Game 2, San Miguel must find a way to slow down Ian Sangalang. It's imperative that they do that or they will dig themselves a 0-2 series deficit.
While it's already expected that San Miguel will be on a comeback mode come tomorrow's Game 2, the Beermen must not only come back to tie the series at 1-1, they must show and remind the league who they truly are. They are the defending champions and not just a team who relied on their starters to bail them out. The Beermen must do what the league has been fearing from them: dominate from every angle of the game and not just in scoring.