Wednesday, January 21, 2015

San Miguel Beer grabs another PBA Title after long wait!

It has been a long wait for the San Miguel Beer franchise.  Despite fielding year in and year out one of the strongest line-ups in the PBA, the Beermen has not won a championship since the 2010-11 Governor's Cup while still known as the Petron Blzaze boosters.  The last time that a team named San Miguel Beer won was the 2008-2009 Fiesta Conference and the last time this storied franchise won an All-Filipino plum was way back in 2001. San Miguel now has 20 PBA titles all in all.

I am really happy for them but I am happier for the PBA fans.  The fans were treated with an amazing series.  It could not have a better unless of course, we wanted Jvee Casio to make a miracle 3-point shot to propel Alaska to an improbable title.  Alaska has shown a tenacity that was never seen in an Alaska team. Calvin Abueva emerged as the face of the new Alaska identity. Pesky, brash, kakainis, but so good that if only he were 6-6 his talent could have landed him a spot in the NBA. Alex Compton actually outcoached Leo Austria.  Compton properly managed the playing time of his players while Austria gave heavy minutes to his superstars who almost got victimised by the fresher legs of the Aces. Talent luckily, prevailed over teamwork last night.  It was like the destiny star was shining on June Mar Fajardo who on that night finally claimed a PBA title.  It was a seemingly long wait for the once in a generation big man from Pinamungahan, Cebu.  Fajardo has a potential to eclipse Mon Fernandez and Alvin Patrimonio if he keeps on improving every conference. Now that he has the championship, the pressure has been lifted and the fears of him becoming PBA's Patrick Ewing is now gone.

It was a great series and I am one of the fans who would have wished that there was a Game 8, and Game 9.  I am sure PBA has won more fans last night after watching a classic conclusion of a surprisingly competitive Philippine Cup Finals.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

PBA Philippine Cup Game 4 updates

Vic Manuel gets a garbage time lay up after pushing Justin Chua in the other end. Exciminiano with another gimme. SMB ties the series. Game 4 88-70 for SMB

SMB 88 Alaska 66

It's garbage time.  De la Rosa Scores for Alaska.

Last 2 minutes

SMB 88 Alaska 64

Kramer hits 2 FTs.

SMB 86 Alaska 64

Baguio hits 2 FTs. Santos answers with a jumper.

SMB 84 Alaska 62

Lassiter scores 2 Fts. San Miguel blocks 2 Aces attempts.

SMB 82 Alaska 62

Vic Manel scores from a steal.

SMB 82 Alaska 60

2015 PBA Philippine Cup Finals Game 4: Halftime Analysis

San Miguel 49  Alaska 26

San Miguel Beer has once again taken a big lead. The Beermen finished the first period at 33-16 then they limited the Alaska Aces to 10 points in the second quarter.  Alex Cabagnot is playing his best game of the series. The point guard combined with Junemar Fajardo in a 12-4 run to give the San Miguel a 23 point lead at the half.

So far, San Miguel has matched the defensive intensity of the Aces.  The game was full of deflections and disruption of the passing lanes. There were lots of steals and counter steals.  The difference between the two teams is that San Miguel's guards especially Cabagnot has started hitting at the outside. Cabagnot scored 16 points at the half.

Alaska will once again need to summon the magic that they have in Game 1 and 3. They are in a way used to this kind of deficits. They will definitely try to increase the pressure and speed up the game.  San Miguel needs to hold on to this lead to be able to improve their confidence.  If they rout the Aces this game, they will definitely send a message that they also want this title as bad as the Aces.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Why the Detroit Pistons can make the playoffs?

Detroit Pistons logo 2005-present. The logo me...
Detroit Pistons logo 2005-present. The logo merged the original 'Bad Boys' logo with the secondary Pistons logo of 2001-05. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Detroit Pistons became one of the hottest NBA teams after giving Josh Smith a Christmas gift of 27 million and release papers. Every since they played Santa, they have won 9 of their last 10 games.  In a few short weeks, they turned from one of the lottery favourites (5-23) to become one of the dangerous contenders for a playoff spots (14-24) in the Eastern Conference. Their record may not show it but the league has noticed their amazing surge and even their fans are suddenly rejuvenated.

The Pistons are now humming and they are set to become a playoff team.  If they succeed in punching their way to a playoff ticket then it will surely become one best comeback stories in professional sports history. Here are some good reasons why the Detroit Pistons can make it:

1. Stan Van Gundy - He is an accomplished coach and he has led teams to overachieve in the past.  He never had a winning percentage less than .512 in a season. Van Gundy's career record was over .600 before he took over the Pistons and he never missed making a playoffs. He has what it takes to turn any team into a winner. With the Pistons, he has now the chance to become the "Pat Riley" of the  Motown franchise.

2. Team Composition - Detroit became so successful in the past by assembling a deep line-up and not relying on 1 or 2 Superstars.  Sure they have Isiah Thomas in their late 80's run but that team paled in comparison to the Lakers, Celtics, and Bulls when it comes to star power. The 2004 Champion team was built similarly. This year's team has so many weapons that it is hard to pinpoint who will explode in one night. Brandon Jennings is getting his confidence back but on some nights the main guard becomes Meeks, Augustin or KCP. They have a solid guard bunch that has a little drop-off in skills if the starters move to the bench. Van Gundy has a lot of good shooters in this team which is usually his team's trademark. Josh Smith was not accurate enough to fit the way the coach wants them play. Will this year be the comeback of Pistons Basketball? Highly Likely.

3. Big Men - The Pistons have a C-PF tandem that can compete with anybody in the league. Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond are at least in the top 12 in their respective positions. Monroe is practically in his contract year and he has been one of the most consistent players of the team. Drummond is one of the up and coming big men in the league and he is just 21 years old. The two of them are double-double machines and they both can play C and PF solidly giving Van Gundy some line up flexibility. 

4. Bench - The bench has been a big revelation after being given more minutes when Josh Smith was released. Jonas Jerebko is playing one of his best seasons and he is an excellent stretch four in the Van Gundy offence. The Swede is grabbing rebounds and hitting shots from the outside which complements well with Drummond and Monroe. Meeks has been scoring so well ever since he came back and the Pistons only won 3 games while he was injured. Augustin has shown that he has the ability to run the offence while Caron Butler has a bit of revival with this team. The bench are a big reason why the team have very good second quarters and why Van Gundy can have so many dangerous endgame combinations.

5. The East - If the Pistons were playing the West, the 5-23 start could easily make teams throw a white flag even before the change in calendar year. In the East, everything is possible.  The early season favourites are faltering. The best team is for sale. The current 8th seed is for sale. Lebron's Cavs are struggling. To make the playoffs, the Pistons need help from the other teams. They are just 2 games out of the 8th spot and 2.5 from the 7th spot. If the Pistons continue to play like a Top 3 team in the East until the end of the season, they could probably go as high as a 5th seed. 

Making playoffs is not easy but if the Pistons manage to pull this off they will definitely be one of the teams to watch in the East. It could even spark a glorious run like what they did in the past decade. 

Monday, January 12, 2015

Why Alaska will win the 2015 Philippine Cup Title?

Three games into the 2015 PBA Philippine Cup Finals, the Alaska Aces have taken a 2-1 lead over the favored San Miguel Beermen. In a way it is a big surprise as San Miguel led by MVP Junemar Fajardo and former MVP Arwind Santos have took double digit leads in all 3 games and yet they only have one victory to show.

Well, Alaska is summoning an inner-Ginebra in them. I never seen a team this resilient in the last few years of watching the PBA.  Here are some factors why Alaska will win this tight series:

1.  Blue Collar attitude - These Alaska Aces are not the same as the Tim Cone era Alaska.  This year's team is more about intensity and not much about finesse and showtime.  This kind of attitude or "angas" is best displayed in their leader, Calvin "The Beast" Abueva.  His willingness to do the dirty work have infected the other Aces.  Ping Exciminiano has transformed into a mini-beast. Dondon Hontiveros has never  been this fiery. Good looking boys Thoss and Banchero are playing like tough men. The serious intensity of Alex Compton's boys have rattled the Beermen. They remind me of the Detroit Pistons Bad Boys that shackle Michael Jordan for a few years in the 1980's.

2. Comeback Kids - The Aces are never afraid playing from behind. They know they can rally and score in bunches.  They seem to play better when they are behind. They have rallied from over 20 point deficits and they have been doing this all season long. Alaska got that mojo that can counter SMB's star power.  Once Alaska gets the momentum, they are impossible to beat. They are slowly becoming the Ginebra San Miguel of this generation and no lead will be safe.

3. Speed and Pressure - The Aces have the speed to counter San Miguel's size.  They have disrupted the vaunted half court offence of Leo Austria.  The pressure caused so many deflections and delays to San Miguel's plays. It's so beautiful.  They look like Pacquiao pressuring De la Hoya to give up.

4. Absence of Superstars - They are filled with good players but not the superstar kind. Calvin Abueva is their MVP but shooting and scoring is not really his forte. It's his defense and his ability to get into opponent's minds that makes him better this year. He is like a Dennis Rodman with better scoring. Hontiveros and Menk are past their primes. Thoss has been upstaged by younger and taller centers and he is now a bit undersized in the era of giants. They remind me a lot of the 2004 Detroit Pistons that cut down the star-studded LA Lakers.

Alaska's traits have full of victorious precedents and unless San Miguel make a radical adjustment this series will be going in favor of the underdogs. Alaska has a good chance of putting this series away by winning the pivotal Game 4.

Post-Mortem: San Miguel grabbed the title by winning Game 7 by 2 points.  It was one heckuva Game 7.  San Miguel at one point led 23 and the were leading by 21 at the half.  That mammoth lead was practically erased in just 12 minutes.  Alaska owned the second half.  They are really joy to watch when the are behind.  the Aces just do not know how to give up. They even had a 6 point lead with 4 minutes left in the game. San Miguel virtually took a page from Alaska by stealing the game in the final minutes. Can you imagine that these 2 teams are just separated by 2 points? I really give credit to the team's attitude and intensity.  Alex Compton is a genius in adjustments and I look forward to a rivalry perhaps. ;)