The Bay Area Dragons moved within one win of entering the 2022 PBA Commissioner’s Cup Finals following a dominant 114-95 victory over the San Miguel Beermen.
Game 2 of their best-of-five semifinal match-up was quite a different story from the thrilling series opener where Bay Area rallied back from a 16-point San Miguel lead to steal the match.
This time around, the Dragons seized control in the second quarter and built a 10-point halftime lead that carried them to victory. Bay Area’s import Andrew Nicholson, the only player on either team with NBA experience, was dominant and finished with 34 points on 12-of-21 shooting, six three-pointers, 16 rebounds, an assist, two steals, and three turnovers.
Kobey Lam led the Dragons’ locals with 25 points on a blistering 10-of-13 shooting, five rebounds, and four assists.
All five starters scored at least 11 points for Bay Area and reserve Chuanxing Liu was the sixth Dragon who put up double figures with 10 points and seven rebounds.
The Beermen were led by six-time PBA Most Valuable Player June Mar Fajardo in the loss as he had 35 points on 15-of-20 shooting, 10 rebounds, an assist, and a block. San Miguel’s import Devon Scott managed to tally just 14 points, six rebounds, and six assists and was vastly outplayed by his counterpart Nicholson.
The high-scoring duo of CJ Perez and Terrence Romeo were shackled by Bay Area as they combined for only 18 points on seven-of-24 shooting.
The disparity between the Dragons and the PBA teams has been quite glaring over the course of this conference, but the hope was that San Miguel, the 2022 PBA Philippine Cup champions and the most dominant team in the league during this past decade, could match up with this visiting team.
Instead, the Beermen are now one loss away from elimination. This guest stint of Bay Area has reminded local fans of the harsh reality that this institution that takes immense pride in its status as the oldest professional basketball league in Asia has been overtaken and maybe even lapped by its regional peers. The hard cap on foreign-born Filipinos and single import conferences were intended to protect the opportunities of local players, yet have hindered the Filipino game from progressing and keeping up with the global level.
Furthermore, San Miguel has not been helped by the typical internal team politics that saddle most Philippine-based teams. Beermen head coach Leo Austria was reportedly sidelined by health and safety protocols approximately a month ago and was replaced by assistant coach Jorge Gallent whose magic touch turned their season around.
Once Austria was cleared to return to the sidelines, San Miguel’s front office decided to keep Gallent as their lead tactician and he went on to win six straight games before losing their previous match to the Dragons. Austria was then reinstated prior to this Game 2 drubbing and the sudden change was highly likely to have contributed to this disappointing loss.
With the way things stand, Bay Area is more likely than not to take this series and enter the PBA Finals. The winner of the semifinal bracket where the Beermen’s sister teams Barangay Ginebra San Miguel and the Magnolia Chicken Timplados Hotshots are currently tied at 1-1 will likely enter the best-of-seven finals as the underdog.
While it is not a long shot that Ginebra or Magnolia can pull off an upset against the mighty Dragons, the message to the local basketball scene is quite clear. The PBA has fallen behind and a revamp of the entire system may be necessary if any meaningful progress is to be made towards reclaiming the Philippines’ place as a major player in Asian basketball.