Game 2 Alaska vs San Miguel Jan 19 2016 final score result 83-80, Two-way efficiency has Alaska as the favorites over June Mar-less San Miguel.
When the San Miguel Beermen and Alaska Aces faced off in the Philippine Cup Finals last year, it was an offense versus defense affair. Actually, it was more of a dominance versus defense affair. The Beermen were one of the top teams on both offense and defense last year. Alaska had the best defense last year but their offense was nowhere near San Miguel’s.
It showed. During their Finals match-up last year, Alaska proved to be a creative and blitzing defensive squad. They constantly pressured the Beermen and gave June Mar Fajardo different looks. But on offense, they would often have lulls where no one could manufacture points. This held especially true in the final moments of key games. San Miguel had the superstars to get them important points at the end of the game. Alaska didn’t have the same luxury.
This year the Aces have looked so much different. They’ve improved on both ends of the floor. Their formidable defense became even tougher and more coordinated. It’s as if playing defense is second-nature to everyone on the team. Their switching and blitzing was always on point, with no Ace missing a beat. On the other side, they have a deeper understanding of the offense and each other. Alaska players are constantly moving without the ball, and the rock is always pinging back and forth between each player. It’s a prime example of unselfish team play.
During the semifinals, when Alaska was shellacking GlobalPort in the final four games of the series, I thought to myself: Is June Mar Fajardo’s improvement this year enough to offset the improvement of the Alaska Aces?.
It is widely believed that the Beermen have one of the deepest teams in the league. Big names like Alex Cabagnot, Arwind Santos and Marcio Lassiter are still on the roster, after all. In game one, for three quarters, Cabagnot and Lassiter led the way, with 20 and 19 respectively, as San Miguel weathered a poor performance from Santos. Players like Yancy De Ocampo and Gabby Espinas tried to fill in the massive hole left by Fajardo, and combined for 29 markers.
For three quarters in the game, it seemed as if the Beermen wouldn’t need the Kraken. But as admirably as the Beermen tried to play even without their MVP, it just wasn’t the same. Fajardo’s gravity and influence in a game is so different from Espinas and De Ocampo’s. Against a team as intelligent as Alaska, it was only a matter of time before they found the holes in the Beermen’s game.
San Miguel might have former BPC candidates and MVPs, but Alaska is the most functionally deep team in the league. They showcased their depth and flashed their improved game in the fourth quarter. After the Beermen scored 33 points in the third, the Aces countered with a 36-14 fourth canto. Led by bench players Cyrus Baguio, Chris Banchero, Vic Manuel and Calvin Abueva, Alaska lit up the scoreboard. They scored at an efficient 51.9 percent clip and assisted on 20 of their 42 made baskets.
When it counted most, the Beermen didn’t have Fajardo to turn to. Alaska tightened up their defense and shackled all the other superstars of San Miguel. This is a totally different Alaska team from last year. The sooner that the Beermen realize this, the faster they can adjust. The Beermen are now the underdogs. Even if Fajardo returns, they’re still the underdogs against the much-improved Aces. San Miguel needs to improve, even faster than Alaska, in the next three games. Or else this seven-game series will be over soon.