#HIS7ORY

(c) Paul Ryan Tan

 

I do not excel on making introductions so let’s get started.

What went right? What went wrong?

I’m no expert to make analysis like this but through the eye of an ordinary fan who loves the sport, that’s how I came up with these.

***

ALASKA ACES

 

What went right?

They kept everybody guessing what’s their plan. Even Alaska owner Fred Uytengsu stood up from his seat after his team burned three timeouts a second less than the 12-minute mark right after tip-off. They may be playing mind games. They may be trying to make San Miguel conscious of their every move once the real ballgame starts. They may be trying to tell everybody to have fun for this is the game of their lives.

Their reputation of being the “never quit squad” was on display in the fourth quarter when their frustrating defense finally bit the Beermen with the Filipino-Italian Chris Banchero spearheading the onslaught to cut the deficit down to just five from a high of more than 20 early in the game. The guards stepped on the gas like a runaway train while converting swish after swish in the process.

But obviously, they lost steam. Their jumpers aren’t really there. Sonny Thoss’ numbers were not the numbers that made him “The Boss” of the league.

 

What went wrong?

Nobody can really tell if the three successive time-outs that the Aces that took away their mandatory ceasefires in the first half worked or not. The SMB bench was obviously clueless on what is going on. I personally thought it was an official’s time-out. Since Alex Compton is a part of the Gilas coaching staff, it’d be interesting to see if our national team will do the same thing and win the game after the buzzer sounds.

Nothing is really happening to their team. They are shooting bricks. They are taking hurried shots. They’re going up for each rebound ferociously where, unfortunately, their main man Vic Manuel rolled his ankle, which obviously affected his footwork and his lift during crunchtime.

They’ve shot miserably from beyond the arc. Their passes weren’t as crisp as how we hear sounds of Princess Punzalan or Jean Saburit hitting the protagonist’s cheek. They were down in double digits early in the game but they don’t seem to be bothered by it.

After cutting the lead down to just two possessions, Vic Manuel, obviously showing the effects of his injured ankle, forced a bad shot that barely hit the iron against the double-team which paved way to Santos’ trey and made the game out of reach.

Dondon Hontiveros did not find his rhythm in this game, same as JVee Casio and RJ Jazul. They may have converted some but they did not produce the points they were used to contribute to spare themselves from being at the wrong side of history for the second time. There were neither traces of the “Cebuano Hotshot” that made three-straight three-pointers against the Tall Blacks in the MVP Cup nor the Aces’ ultimate bail-out shooter in the former Letran night on that game.

“The Muscleman” may have been the missing link in this jugular. They are fine with the guys not hitting their shots from downtown but for Manuel not to be the man he used to as the main candidate for the Finals MVP award should Alaska have won the game. His physicality was there, the hustle was there but not really the kind of muscle that his team needed from him. What he provided is just similar to the muscle that Eric Menk lost in his huge frame.

Calvin Abueva is doing his job but isn’t really making that noise since they are not at the driver seat. Yes, he did. His numbers during the game is the usual numbers that he is producing in average but this game proved to be a quiet one for him. He did his share.

Samigue Eman had five fouls while trying to contain the bigs of the Beermen. His frame did not have that much effect for his team as JMF lorded the shaded lane.

And oh, Eman was the 2nd overall pick of SMB years back.

Alaska was the Alaska that we knew. They almost overcame the lead.

Almost.

But since they did not break the five-point barrier, it’s not Alaska.

Blame it on the poor outside shooting and the opposite fate that favored their opponent.

 

SAN MIGUEL BEERMEN

 

What went right?

Everything. After being dumbfounded by three consecutive time-outs by the Aces, they came out on the court without conscience. Their long bombs were connecting and their inside game became much scarier since the arrival of June Mar Fajardo.
Chris Ross is a defensive ace for the Beermen, and yet, topcsored his team with 21 markers and hit hour triples, garnering the Finals MVP trophy.

And yes, JMF’s recovery just peaked at the right time just like how Andray Blatche regained his shape as the games in FIBA Asia progresses. I’ll say it again, the injury that “The Kraken” had might have been a blessing in disguise as Yancy De Ocampo stepped up big time to fill the shoes that he left and Gabby Espinas showing why he is the headache of all teams back in his college years and let’s not forget, he’s a former Alaska enforcer before moving to Globalport where SMB picked him up.

Unlike the first three games, Arwind Santos is playing like his old self wearing the Air21 uniform minus the point production. The former FEU Tamaraw is playing at his best as JMF’s resbak, lurking around the perimeter, doing putbacks, stretches the defense with his outside shooting and creating mismatches. You guard him with a big man, he’ll use his speed; you guard him with a smaller guy, he’ll post you up.

What’s good about this team under Leo Austria is that all the players have accepted their roles in their team. This team was once led by Alex Cabagnot but he never complained and demanded more minutes; Brian Heruela was the league leader in assists while playing with Coach Leo Isaac in Blackwater but he measly plays under 10 minutes a game but he never complained about PT. Chris Lutz, Ryan Arana, Nelbert Omolon, Ronald Tubid and other guys who had their moments of being the leader of the team they once played for accepted their roles and knew they cannot be all leaders at the same time.

Chris Ross’ guns were up for one last war.

And oh, this guy was overshadowed by Chris Timberlake before, right?

SMB WAGs, unite!

 

What went wrong?

They seem to be complacent during the early stages of the final frame. They succumed to the defense of Alaska with Banchero anchoring the defense, thanks to “The Spiderman’s” trey, they broke the momentum that made the game out of reach just as when the obviously outnumbered Gatas Republic is about to explode inside the MOA Arena.

They were so “gigil”.

Thanks for that, Earl TImothy Cone.

They were called for numerous offensive fouls when they are penetrating inside the shaded area. Luckily for them, their outside sniping clicked.

 

AFTERMATH

Knowing Alex Compton, the more he’s absorbing a huge blow to his career as a player and as a coach, the more he gets better at what he is doing. Two years ago, he was appointed to be the chief tactician of the Aces following the resignation of the reigning PBA Coach of the Year Luigi Trillo in 2014 and just on his sixth game, Alaska had the worst defeat in their franchise history as the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters beat them by 51 via 123-72 victory with AZ Reid pouring 48 of it.

Since the embarrassment, they’ve had runner-up finishes twice, including this one and both against SMB.

Vic Manuel’s production became the muscle of the team and the Kapampangan tag-team of Abueva and Exciminiano injected the “nakakabanas” type of defense in the PBA since the Ronald Tubid-Paul Artadi duo did with Ginebra during their last championship run.

Now, after this another embarrassment, it would just scare the hell out of everybody what kind of team Alaska would be in the coming conferences, especially with Robert Dozier, Jr. reporting for another tour of duty for them this Commissioners’ Cup.

Dozier, Miami Heat’s selection with the 60th pick in the 2009 NBA Draft out of University of Memphis, carried them to their last title.

And for SMB, there’s no doubt that they are showing how dominant their team is right now in the PBA. Some may say thay have an all-star roster but having an “all-star” roster does not automatically mean championship as they have to fit in the roles given to them.

In my age, this has been the most dominant San Miguel Beermen I’ve ever seen since the years where Danny Seigle dropping 30+ points, Danny Ildefonso being a monster at the post, a Dondon Hontiveros shooting the lights out with THE Olsen Racela quarterbacking the team.

I may have left some key points that might have contributed to this historic win by SMB but the Commish Cup is just few days away. This series between them and the Aces is now in the books and starting February 10th, the chances of making it to the promise land is up for grabs once more.

Nakemiin!

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