#1 San Miguel Beermen (8-3) vs #8 Star Hotshots (5-6)
Elimination round meeting: San Miguel def. Star, 117-98.
Having enjoyed more rest in between the Philippine and Commissioner’s Cups this season compared to last year, the San Miguel Beermen were able to avoid a bad start and cop the top spot in the mid-season conference.
June Mar Fajardo didn’t even play at a hundred percent throughout the conference, but it hardly mattered as the Beermen showed how deep they exactly are, drawing support from a bunch of regular rotation players each time.
The Beermen are the top offensive team in the league, averaging 109.3 points per 100 possessions. They hold the second-best net rating in the league and are also the second-best team in three-point field goal percentage and third-best team in assists.
The Star Hotshots, in contrast, barely made it to the play-offs. Not only are the Hotshots still in a rebuilding mode, but the team, arguably, isn’t in full-strength yet. James Yap (calf-strain) requires about two weeks of rest. Rafi Reavis and Ian Sangalang just returned from injuries and are still working to get back to ideal form.
It’s okay not to expect much from the Hotshots this conference, but what they can do is take valuable lessons against a formidable group. This team is very capable of doing damage if they find the proper balance, but it would take them more time to improve as a whole.
The case for San Miguel
The Beermen are the best team in the PBA today. They have set the standard at a high level, and they are just too stacked for the Hotshots to match pound for pound. They have an explosive scoring import in Tyler Wilkerson (36.9 PPG), one of the league’s best shooter in Marcio Lassiter (15.2 PPG, 43.8 percent 3 PT FGs), and two franchise players in Arwind Santos (10.7 PPG, 4.2 RPG) and June Mar Fajardo (13.1 PPG, 8.6 RPG)
The case for Star
Jason Webb’s offense is unpredictable. Teams will have to sort out who takes charge for Star, and it could give them trouble along the way. Who will topscore for this crew? It could be Allein Maliksi, Mark Barroca, PJ Simon or Marc Pingris. Heck, it could even be Mark Cruz. The team still has a good number of interior defenders to make it difficult for San Miguel’s frontline, and who knows what Ricardo Ratliffe will do against Fajardo or Wilkerson. If Star thinks they can shock a powerhouse squad, this is the chance to do it.
San Miguel: June Mar Fajardo (13.1 PPG, 8.6 RPG)
Fajardo should be the one to initiate San Miguel’s offense in this match-up. Give him the post touches, and let him read the defense and get his teammates involved. It is impossible to ignore his presence, and when he gets going, it will difficult for Star’s defense to react.
Star: Allein Maliksi (15.8 PPG, 56.6 percent 3 PT FGs)
Maliksi is having a break-out conference so far, leading Hotshots locals in scoring while also shooting at a staggering rate from three-point area. With Yap likely out for the quarter-finals, Maliksi has a chance to show he can be the future go-to scoring guard of the Hotshots.
San Miguel: Chris Ross
Since Star’s system relies heavily on the production of guards, Chris Ross should leave an imprint on the defensive end. He should cut off Star’s drives, give pressure to their ball handlers, and try to force them to difficult situations. Delaying what Star wants to do on offense will make it difficult for them to execute and produce points.
Star: Ian Sangalang
Sangalang has a chance to get find his rhythm again in this duel, and Star would gladly to take anything extra in this series.
San Miguel in 1. The Beermen’s ultimate goal remains the grand slam. This team won’t be satisfied of just making it to the quarter-finals or semi-finals. Every conference is a win-it-all conference for them.