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Breakdown: San Miguel uses solid defense to beat Star

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The San Miguel Beermen cruised to their third straight victory after edging the Star Hotshots Sunday night, 100-89. June Mar Fajardo had 21 points and 20 rebounds while Arizona Reid fired 29, but what was impressive was how the Beermen put up a solid effort on the defensive end to disrupt what the Hotshots wanted to run on offense.

Tim Cone’s wards assisted in only 12 of its 32 made field goals in the loss. Prior to the match, the Hotshots were assisting 17.3 of 31.3 makes, and the Beermen did enough to bother the Hotshots from running the triangle to perfection.

What stood out the most was how the Beermen defended all the cutting, denying backdoor options or hand-offs from the elbow/pinch post. It takes a great amount of thinking to defend it properly, and here, June Mar Fajardo is not too concerned about Marc Pingris because he knows the latter does not really shoot well from the perimeter, so he stays underneath.

If Fajardo stuck too close to Pingris, this would have been an easy hand-off or a backdoor step, but instead, the lane has been shut while Pingris received the ball later on and had to put up a wild shot against Fajardo.

Here is another play involving Pingris on the elbow. Alex Cabagnot was wary enough that Justin Melton may just do a quick backdoor cut and Pingris may hit the guard, but instead Cabagnot was wise enough to follow Melton and prevent that option.

Pingris later on admitted San Miguel’s defense changed the way they ran their sets as they were visibly bothered by the energy the team showed on the defensive end.

“Kung sino ang first open, yun ang binibigyan ng bola. May paraan kami doon na kapag na-deny may lalabas agad. Tuloy-tuloy naman yung triangle pero minsan nga lang kapag nadedeny nila, nag-struggle ka rin at naiinis minsan. Magaling talaga dumepensa yung San Miguel,” he said.

Fajardo’s presence also helped with the pick and rolls as he did a great job of not staying out of the paint when it is Pingris as the roll man.

Here he stays in between the rim and his man, and as Chris Ross went over the screen — the proper way to defend one — Mallari tries a layup but was simply bothered by Fajardo’s size.

Pingris and Joe Devance, usually the forwards assigned to operate from the pinch post, both finished with no assists in the match.

The Beermen’s wing guys also did a tremendous job of fighting screens and keeping themselves close to their respective assignments on defense, making it hard for the Hotshots to execute. Marcio Lassiter only had 6 points and was 2-for-10 from the field, but was a plus-15 as he impacted the game by being active on defense. Chris Ross finished with 14 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, and 3 steals.

“We just wanted to be aggressive and we knew if we brought out the energy, we will bring problems to their offense. We made sure we were there when they are making their attacks. I tried to beat them to their spots. I forced them out of their comfort zone and forced a couple of steals from those hand-offs,” Lassiter said.

In addition, the troika of Cabagnot, Ross, and Lassiter wounded up with 18 rebounds combined, 11 more than the total of Pingris, Devance, and Mick Pennisi. Star allowed San Miguel to haul down 57 rebounds after only limiting opponents 43.3 rebounds during their first three games.

“We wanted to make it difficult to whoever had the ball. We wanted to make sure there is pressure. We wanted to fight the screens.”

San Miguel mentor Leo Austria bared after the game his squad focused on that particular part of the Star offense, and succeeded in doing so.

“The past few days ‘yun ang pinagaralan namin dahil ‘yun talaga ang main aspect ng kanilang game. Mga backdoor cut especially on a 2-pass, 3-pass or hitting the big man sa elbow then ka-cut or over the top. So that is what we practiced. Sa triangle, laging kasama yun e. I am happy to see them na talagang ginagawa ang game plan namin,” Austria shared.

The Hotshots previously lost to GlobalPort and Meralco, and both teams were also active in denying those options. Cone’s troops are 1-3 and while this is not necessarily troublesome since the Hotshots are still lacking consistency from their top guns, it is a weakness they need to solve in order to move forward and defend the only remaining crown they have.

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