For all the things they went through in the preliminary round of the 2023-2024 PBA Commissioner’s Cup, it was a straight path for the San Miguel Beermen once the postseason began.
First, they made quick work out of the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters in the quarterfinals, utilizing a strong second half to avoid extending the series.
SMB then swept the Barangay Ginebra Gin Kings in the semifinals, with two of the three games having been decided by a single score. Game 3 seemed to be the Gin Kings’ best shot of extending the series, as they led by eight points with 7:13 left in the third quarter. In the end, however, San Miguel’s persistence, thanks to the impact of Bennie Boatwright Jr. and June Mar Fajardo, proved to be tough to overcome.
Moving forward, that Boatwright Jr.-Fajardo connection will be crucial for the Beermen’s championship aspirations. For one, Boatwright Jr. makes Fajardo’s life so much easier and vice-versa. It’s been great to see the chemistry they developed with one another even with the limited time they had together. It’ll be great to see what the two of them can do with even more time together.
Moreover, the dynamic duo’s success has been a boon for their teammates, who have happily scooped up the open opportunities that come. CJ Perez has been a major factor in this series, while both Marcio Lassiter and Jericho Cruz have had their moments scoring-wise so good things have come when the opposing defenses have had to keep guessing.
Of course, it was a two way effort from SMB, as they made an effort to contain Barangay Ginebra’s offense as the series went on. After the Gin Kings converted on 45 percent of their field goal attempts in Game 1, they never eclipsed 41 percent in the succeeding games. San Miguel put on the clamps with pesky perimeter defense coupled with solid interior defense. If anything, the Beermen’s activity on offense also wore them down.
Now, SMB awaits the winner of the other semifinals series between the Magnolia Hotshots and the Phoenix Super LPG Fuel Masters and while they will rightly devote attention to both squads, the preparation for the finals begins with themselves.
San Miguel has one of the league’s oldest rosters and injuries have ravaged the team. Fajardo has dealt with major injuries over the last few seasons, so getting him as much rest throughout the season will be critical. Terrence Romeo missed Games 2 and 3 with a left ankle sprain and while he wasn’t needed in eliminating Barangay Ginebra, that may not be the case in the next stage. The rest of the Beermen dealt with injuries one way or another throughout the elimination round so no one was really unscathed.
All things considered, it can be said that the San Miguel Beermen are peaking at the right time. They’ve got their best players back and as a team, they’re pretty much playing their best basketball, all of which has led SMB to the finals of the 2023-2024 PBA Commissioner’s Cup.
Now, San Miguel will have to wait for their next opponent and this waiting provides them with an opportunity to get better both on the court and off it. The Beermen might as well maximize it since good things come to those who wait.