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.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

PBA Philippine Cup Finals: What happened to Alaska in Game 5?

This appears in the PBA website.

What happened to Alaska in Game 5?
by rick olivares pic by nuki sabio

It was the first match of the series where both teams played it close all throughout. No blowouts this time around. And for the first time this series, the San Miguel Beermen won an odd number game firmly putting themselves in the driver’s seat and the Alaska Aces on their heels.

The match was largely for the first time devoid of histrionics and the sideshows that characterized the first four games where the word physicality was repeatedly thrown about and was mostly an understatement.

The Aces misfired plenty
Alaska outrebounded SMB by a mile but they couldn’t convert not even from close range. Coach Alex Compton’s charges were only 31-82 for 38% from the field. For the second consecutive game, JVee Casio laid a big fat egg. And that leads us to the next category.

The Aces’ players did not do more
The series is a battle between the two best defensive teams in the league right now so it stands to reason that the averages of some players will plummet. However, the challenge for the players is to do what they can.

Case in point, the respective backcourts.

SMB’s Chris Ross and Alex Cabagnot combined for nine points as they struggled with the defensive effort put on them by Ping Exciminiano, RJ Jazul, and JVee Casio. Yet the Beermen’s point guards combined for 15 assists, four rebounds, and two steals. In stark contrast, the Aces (and when you add Chris Banchero to the mix) got only nine points and that was all from RJ Jazul. They only tallied four assists as well.

Another example would be JuneMar Fajardo who finally realized that if he can’t get it done on the offensive end, he might as well play defense. I think that this is one of the best series where an opposing team has stymied one of the best players if not the best in the PBA today. Fajardo remained befuddled by the double or triple teams that awaited him.

With a more diversified offense and one where SMB wasn’t forcing the issue inside, Fajardo played better and scored a “quiet” 19 points while pulling downs 13 boards (to go with his five blocks).

The Beermen answered the Aces’ big shots with some of their own
Cyrus Baguio drilled a three. The next trip down the floor, SMB’s Marcio Lassiter hit one of his own.

Vic Manuel scored on a three-point play off Doug Kramer. In the next play, Kramer repaid him with one of his own.

The lane was a no-fly zone for the Aces.
The lack of production from Alaska’s backcourt allowed SMB to clamp down later on Alaska’s frontline of Calvin Abueva, Vic Manuel, and Sonny Thoss. And the late game stops really hurt Alaska.

San Miguel shut down the shaded lane for Alaska. Arwind Santos and JuneMar Fajardo combined for 10 blocked shots and altered a few more. In contrast, Alaska only registered one.

What should Alaska figure out?
They need to get Casio and Dondon Hontiveros untracked. When the two are scoring, they opening things up for Thoss and company underneath. Cyrus Baguio may have scored some in Game Five but throughout the series he hasn’t been his usual high impact self. Banchero has to rediscover his shooting touch. In the D-League, he got off his shot when he wanted to but I always thought that he was a volume shooter and needed to be more economical and effective.  

For the first time, Alaska didn’t have to dig themselves out of a hole and try and rally. The problem was some of their players are in that hole and need to get out of it.

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