Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

PBA Philippine Cup Finals: What happened to the San Miguel Beermen in Game One?

This appears on the PBA website

What happened to San Miguel Beer in Game One?
by rick olivares pic by nuki sabio

Calvin Abueva got under their skin
This is number one with a bullet. I thought that Calvin Abueva got under their skins. After Abueva’s flagrant foul, he returned and immediately fished four fouls from the Beermen, got three floor burns, got to the free throw line and pulled down a rebound. Within minutes, San Miguel was in penalty situation and their lead that once looked imperious at 22 had whittled down.

I am still surprised that after all this time the Beermen react to Abueva’s tactics and antics. Some like David Semerad have played against him for so long that he still doesn’t know how to play the Beast.

The Beermen were complaining all match long about botched calls and dirty plays then when you look over to the Alaska side, they’re grinning. In this regard, the mental battle which is more than half the game, went the Aces’ way.

SMB was whistled for a total of 26 fouls to the 15 of Alaska. That resulted in the Aces going to the free throw line 26 times to the 18 of the Beermen (both sides missed six a piece none more crucial than JuneMar Fajardo’s late free throw that could have won them the game).

I’d say that Abueva isn’t only “the Beast” but “the Beast Master.”

Execution. Execution. Execution.
I will point to four things that did the Beermen in.

One, the defense on JuneMar Fajardo. He was double and triple-team all night long. Sometimes, they took too long in getting the ball to him that by the time it arrived, there was a wall in front of him. One time late in the game, Alex Cabagnot gave him a bounce pass although several steps away from his sweet post spot. JV Casio promptly stole the ball away. I thought that SMB was forcing the issue. When they needed to be creative or go to other players, they didn’t. I thought the point guards of MSB did a poor job of reading what was going on. Sure SMB had more assists in the game but they got a lot of those when they posted their early lead.

Second, that ill-advised three-point attempt by Alex Cabagnot late in the game. Took everyone by surprise and there were no rebounders in sight for the Beermen.

Third, that play in the dying minutes after the Cabagnot missed trey where Chris Lutz and Arwind Santos ate up the shot clock passing the ball around atop the three-point arc. When Lutz drove into a crowd he passed to Marcio Lassiter who trailed on the play. Except Marcio was too deep to even attempt a fade that he got blocked. Then in overtime, Lutz attacked the basket. I thought that at that point where Lassiter got swatted, Lutz should have still took it strong if not pulled up for the jumper. He was the one consistent scoring force all throughout and when he needed to attack he passed off.

Four, I know this is pretty much situational as Leo Austria’s best five needed a rest. He started our Semerad and Ronald Pascual in overtime and they didn’t accomplish much. I thought that Alaska dug into their bench and gave their players playing time if not breathers. The Aces wrangled 61 points from their bench to the 20 of SMB). Alaska didn’t play only Rome De La Rosa and Gabby Espinas who is just back from a knee injury. Nine of the Aces got significant playing time while SMB has six on their roster playing plenty of minutes.

I thought the shorter rotation tired out the SMB players that it may have contributed to poor decision making at crunch time. This also contributed to the 26 turnovers (to the 17 of Alaska) of which not all were forced but by their own doing (to wit the lost inbound late in the game and Lassiter losing the pass while unguarded). Three players were not fielded by Doug Kramer got less than five minutes. By the time Semerad re-entered the game, he was cold. Much more so for Pascual. As for the bench, I thought that maybe Rico Maierhofer and Doug Kramer could have helped.

SMB’s veterans disappeared.
I’d give some credit to Alaska for this but not entirely. But the Beermen drew poor performances from Alex Cabagnot, Chris Ross, Marcio Lassiter, and Ronald Tubid. Furthermore, they were outplayed on the other end by their Alaska counterparts.

Alaska’s outside artillery found the range late in the game.
The Aces got huge three-point shots from Dondon Hontiveros and JV Casio late in the game whereas when SMB needed a triple, they misfired from that range.

How SMB adjusts will be interesting to see.

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