Beermen, Rhodes on an ominous roll
Still untouchable while playing just hard enough to whip foes.
That’s the San Miguel Beermen at the halfway mark of their campaign in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup where they have now installed themselves as solid favorites to nail a second title for the year after their impressive third straight championship in the Philippine Cup last March.
With Charles Rhodes proving a perfect complement to SMB’s powerful all-Filipino lineup, the Beermen have racked up five straight victories where they only had to play extra hard in stretches, rather than go all out from the start like the other squads do, to prevail.
Defending champion Rain or Shine was the last team to absorb the brunt of SMB’s new super charged game as the Beermen left the Elasto Painters hopelessly outclassed midway in the last quarter before coasting to a 111-98 victory on Saturday.
Three days earlier, the Beermen set the biggest winning margin of 29 points in the league’s second tournament for the year with a 109-80 crushing of the Mahindra Floodbuster, who played with their old playing coach, world boxing champion Sen. Manny Pacquiao watching from the bench.
While Mahindra’s sixth loss in seventh game was expected, the match was no contest from the start. SMB ace guard Alex Cabagnot, firing almost at will, shot 16 of the first 32 points of the Beermen to match Mahindra’s entire first quarter production.
Coach Leo Austria found no need to use big man and the league’s top local June Mar Fajardo, who was benched for good after a scoreless nine-minute stint in the opening period. It was just the second time in the career of the three-time Most Valuable Player Fajardo to end up scoreless.
The Beermen, who had problems here with their high-scoring import Tyler Wilkerson here and bowed out in the semifinals with last-minute replacement Arizona Reid, couldn’t be happier with the 31-year-old Rhodes, a slick operator inside the shaded lane and a sure-fire attraction with his powerful dunks.
A veteran of the Korean Basketball League, Rhodes has averaged 23.2 points in five games with a high of 29 against the Star Hotshots where he scored 11 points in the last quarter to give SMB a 99-88 lead en route to a 103-97 win.
Going into the All-Star break, Meralco, the opening victim of SMB, holds second place with a 6-1 win-loss record withGinebra, beaten by SMB for the Philippine Cup crown, a close third at 4-1, followed by TNT KaTropa and Star (5-2), Alaska
(4-2), Rain or Shine (4-3) and Phoenix (3-4).