Two games into the 2023 Honda PBA Governors’ Cup, the San Miguel Beermen have pulled off victories by an average margin of 20 points.
It’s an indication of the Beermen’s enduring talent and ability to find ways to win. Nevermind that the wins came against the Phoenix Super LPG Fuel Masters and the Blackwater Bossing because great teams don’t play with their food and simply win games that they’re supposed to win.
Strength in numbers continued to be SMB’s approach, as their win against the Bossing was the second straight game where they had at least six players scoring nine points. San Miguel’s starters all scored at least nine points, but it was Jericho Cruz (game-high 22 points) who came off the bench and provided the most damage to Blackwater. With the ball moving around (as shown by the 32 assists the Beermen had), SMB was able to find great shots from behind the 3-point line (41 percent shooting from behind the 3-point line), which more than made up for a relatively off night inside.
Things have become more perimeter-oriented, as San Miguel head coach Jorge Gallent has decided to put more focus on the likes of Cruz, CJ Perez, Simon Enciso, Marcio Lassiter, and Allyn Bulanadi. Terrence Romeo has yet to even suit up in the 2023 Governor’s Cup so that means the Beermen aren’t even at full strength yet. Of course, June Mar Fajardo will always find ways to put his mark on the game, but one has hope that Gallent will ride the hot hand rather than forcing a system that more sophisticated teams can exploit.
The head coaching switch to Jorge Gallent from Leo Austria was met with mixed reactions and they were obviously warranted given how Austria has brought in nine PBA championships, with the most recent being the 2022 Honda PBA Philippine Cup. It goes without saying that Gallent has huge shoes to fill, especially since titles are expected from SMB. Keeping aspects of Austria’s system is certainly a good approach but how he will integrate new concepts will be an interesting development to watch.
The recent wins have of course been great for the San Miguel faithful, but real work begins when Gallent and the Beermen will face the likes of sister team and reigning Commissioner’s Cup champions Barangay Ginebra Gin Kings, the NLEX Road Warriors, and even the Converge FiberXers. Each team will test SMB in various ways and the wins from the previous days should give them confidence for the tests of tomorrow.
When the tough times come, San Miguel’s best bet is to mix things up. They tend to pass the ball a lot, which is a great thing, and so the next thing that matters is that they finish strong. During the last conference, their import Devon Scott was one who would work within the system and help feed the likes of Fajardo and Perez. Now, it seems that the roles are flipped with Clark on board. Fajardo, Perez, and the rest of SMB have moved the ball around and Clark has been one of the biggest beneficiaries of this movement. San Miguel isn’t asking Clark to dominate large stretches of games since they have a stacked roster; all they can ask from the 31-year old is to make the most out of his touches.
This all-hands-on-deck approach will certainly be helpful as the season goes on, and especially as San Miguel certainly feels the wear-and-tear from a long season. Blowout games have allowed them to play their stars at reasonable minutes, saving the heavier workloads for when the games are tighter. Moreover, some of their players have already had some significant injuries and any rest will be very much welcome.
The San Miguel Beermen are undefeated through two games in the 2023 Honda PBA Governors’ Cup and while great starts are always welcome, how one finishes the season matters more. Nonetheless, the Beermen should be able to use these last two games as confidence builders, especially with the tough stages of the conference coming up.