Tale of the Tape: SMB Mastery or ROS finally unlocking the mystery

The final four of the 2016 Oppo Commissioner’s Cup is not set yet but one end of the bracket is final and it will feature the San Miguel Beermen against the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters. 

This will be the 3rd straight conference that both teams will face each other in the semis. Their two previous meetings in the playoffs were won by the Beermen. So, will the 3rd time finally be the charm for RoS?

Coach Yeng Guiao believes that his team’s familiarity with the Beermen’s style will benefit his team this time around. Additionally, RoS defeated SMB during the eliminations.

Meanwhile, Coach Leo Austria can bank on having all of his main stalwarts healthy and ready for the semis.

 

So, here’s a series preview of their best-of-5 matchup that will start on Sunday.

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Offense

If you love points and scoring chances, this series should provide that. SMB and RoS finished the eliminations as the #1 and #2 highest scoring teams, respectively. After 2 games during the quarterfinals, SMB still averaged more points than RoS. The Beermen rely more on their low-post scoring options that utilize the otherworldly skills of June Mar Fajardo. Opposing teams are forced to choose between leaving him in single coverage or sending a double team which frees up their shooters (Lassiter, Cabagnot, Santos, etc.).

Consequently, the Beermen took the most threes and made the most threes during the eliminations. Furthermore, SMB also has the highest scoring import, Tyler Wilkerson, at their disposal. Wilkerson can score inside and hit threes. On the contrary, Pierre Henderson-Niles of RoS is not relied on to produce big offensive numbers. He is there mainly as a burly defensive presence.

As for the rest of the Elasto Painters, they use more pick and roll or pick and pop sets to get their shots. Aside from that, RoS attacks often in transition which was evident as they finished #3 in fast break points while also scoring more than 5 points what SMB averaged.

Moreover, the Elasto Painters also employ a more balanced scoring attack which allows different guys to launch shots aside from Paul Lee and Jeff Chan. However, the Beermen possess the best player, the best shooter and the best import. The advantage goes to SMB.

Defense

Since both teams are offensively-gifted, expect scores to hit the century mark more often than not. There’s also the fact that both SMB and RoS give up a lot of points defensively.

During the eliminations, SMB ranked 8th in points allowed (103.5) while RoS only did a tad better at 7th (102.8). Nevertheless, those numbers do not mean that defense won’t be evident in this series. It is possible that both teams are suffering through some defensive problems but each team has a slew of capable defenders. SMB has decent defenders with the likes of Marcio Lassiter, Ronald Tubid and Arwind Santos plus their best perimeter defender is Chris Ross.

On the other hand, RoS has pesky guys like Jericho Cruz, Jireh Ibanez, and Maverick Ahanmisi. Aside from solid perimeter defenders, they also have low-post bangers like JR Quinahan, Beau Belga, Jewel Ponferada, Raymond Almazan and their heavyset import, Pierre Henderson-Niles to keep the big men of SMB off-balanced and annoyed by their mind games. I haven’t even mentioned Gabe Norwood who is their most versatile defender. Expect Norwood to see time trying to defend Tyler Wilkerson of SMB. Overall, RoS has better defenders, thus, the Elasto Painters have the advantage defensively.

Bench Depth

On paper, SMB is arguably the deepest and most talented team in the PBA. They have the back-to-back MVP and most recent Finals MVP on their roster. They also have a leading candidate for the Best Import award on their team plus their recent acquisition of sniper Gary David made them a lot more dangerous.

However, the Beermen do not regularly use most of their players. SMB typically uses a short rotation, maybe 8-9 men deep on most games. Guys like Ryan Arana, Ronald Tubid, Chris Lutz and Brian Heruela often get limited action or end up not playing at all.

As for the Elasto Painters, they consistently rotate players and give most of their players a chance to play and contribute. Their starting lineup is not set in stone and even their import is not expected to log the most minutes.

Therefore, it is not surprising to see RoS field 10 players just in the first quarter. This tactic should benefit RoS more because their players are more used to playing with each other and their different combinations are more likely to succeed compared to SMB when the Beermen are suddenly forced to play the others who have not played in a while due to foul trouble, bad matchups or poor play. The lack of confidence and rust that comes with not playing regularly will hurt SMB more than RoS. Hence, the advantage of bench depth goes to RoS.

Coaching

Both coaches are proven winners due to their multiple championships. They are also brilliant motivators and competent tacticians. Now, that is where their similarity ends. Coach Yeng Guiao is an explosive and passionate coach who will say anything to motivate his team while also giving the referees an earful.

Meanwhile, Coach Leo Austria is more laidback and tactful when it comes to addressing his team and officials. Needless to say, Coach Guiao is more likely to cost his team a technical foul (or two) especially when he engages in jawing/taunting episodes with opposing players like his previous encounters with Chris Ross. Furthermore, Coach Yeng also complains more often to referees which could get him ejected which will hurt RoS a lot when it comes to designing plays during the course of the game because Coach Yeng is one of the best when it comes to calling plays after timeouts.

As for Coach Leo, if he is able to manage the minutes of his key guys consistently and evenly plus prevent guys like Ross, Tubid, Lassiter, Santos and Wilkerson from engaging in taunts that could get them distracted and maybe ejected, then Coach Leo has already fulfilled a portion of his objectives for this series, which is to not participate in mind games or “psy wars” against experts from RoS, most especially Coach Yeng because SMB could lose this series if they engage in such things. So, the coaching advantage should go to SMB as long as Coach Leo keeps the Beermen calm and collected.

Prediction

The Beermen are gunning for a shot to accomplish a Grand Slam and winning the middle conference is part of that journey. They have the best import and best player on their team. Hence, SMB will win the series in 5 tough and gruelling games. – By Rolly Mendoza

Follow this writer on Twitter: @rollzter

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