The 2016 Philippine Cup Finals will end on February 3 at the Mall of Asia Arena because the series was extended to the limit. Every basketball fan looks forward to the final and deciding game of a series where anything can happen.
Similar to last year, this Finals will end after seven grueling games. Most people thought that Alaska would run away with the title after going up 3-0 but San Miguel Beer fought back and now the series is tied.
So, how did SMB manage to tie the series? Here are five reasons/factors that helped SMB force Game seven.
1. June Mar Fajardo
The Beermen lost three straight games without the BPC and the two-time MVP. When Fajardo played in their last two games, his presence helped SMB win Games five & six. JMF is not averaging monster numbers but his two-game averages of 14.5 points and 5.5 rebounds are still better than most players.
Aside from those, JMF’s time on the court opened up more shooting space for Alex Cabagnot, Arwind Santos and Marcio Lassiter. Defensively, the Aces seem to focus more on Fajardo which leaves the others to have open looks and unhindered driving lanes to the rim.
2. Zone Defense
The Beermen started using zone defense more often during the Finals. That tactic was used to prevent Alaska from penetrating and attacking the paint especially when JMF was not able to play due to his knee injury.
Now, even with JMF back, SMB still uses the zone a lot because they want the Aces to take more jumpers. It has worked to SMB’s advantage because Alaska has been shooting blanks from the perimeter.
3. Chris Ross
Ross is a defensive demon and one of the best perimeter defenders in the PBA. During the first three games, he played around 16 minutes, all losses. In the last three games, he started the game and his minutes got bumped to around 38 minutes per game.
He has been very effective at quickening the pace and beating the backcourt press defense of the Aces. Offensively, he has been the Beermen’s X-Factor. In their three wins, Ross has averaged 9 ppg, 7 rpg, 6 apg and 3 spg.
Earlier in the series, coach Leo Austria used a short rotation that relied heavily on his starters plus a couple of bench guys.
SMB’s starters played more minutes compared to those with Alaska, whose minutes were distributed more evenly. Thus, more players got to play and contribute for coach Alex Compton’s ball club. Consequently, the Beermen appeared more fatigued during crucial portions of the game.
Hence, Austria tweaked his rotation and gave others the opportunity to play. That strategy helped SMB outlast Alaska in back-to-back overtime wins during Games four and five.
5. Free Throws
In five of the six games, SMB made and attempted more FTs than Alaska. Overall, SMB drained 139 out of 192 attempts (72.4%) compared to Alaska’s 83 out of 112 attempts (74.1%).
The Beermen have done a better job of attacking the paint and initiating contact which have translated to more fouls against Alaska, therefore, more foul shots for SMB.
The stoppage of play also favored SMB because they were able to set up their half-court defense and their players had more time to rest while on the court. Furthermore, Alaska has not received more FTs because they often took jumpers due to the zone defense of the Beermen.
By Rolly Mendoza