Barangay Ginebra battles San Miguel Beer in a best-of-five semifinal contest in the Philippine Basketball Association Governors’ Cup, and coach Tim Cone could only wish that the series was stretched a bit longer.
“I wish it was a best-of-seven because it gives you more room for error. They have proven over the last three games without June Mar [Fajardo], that they can play at a high level without him,” Cone said on the heels of a swift 127-93 win over NLEX on Sunday night.
It is that very handicap, according to the seasoned tactician, that allowed the Beermen to unlock a different kind of play and effectiveness.
“[T]hey play a little quicker, a little bit more up and down. Their import (Cameron Clark) has the opportunity to dominate a little more inside. They have been able to overcome June Mar’s absence with flying colors,” he added.
Fajardo is out for at least a few more weeks due to a knee problem he sustained during the East Asia Super League in Japan earlier this month.
Interestingly, it was during that gig when San Miguel found its foremost weapon outside June Mar. In the two blowouts suffered at the hands of top Korean and Japanese clubs, CJ Perez was easily the best local for the Beermen.
“CJ is playing MVP (most valuable player) basketball. Nobody’s been able to stop him from getting to the basket. And he’s got a good balance—he’s been hitting threes,” he said.
“They have a lot of weapons out there, and we’re just going to have to try to figure a way to contain some of them—their import [and] especially CJ. They are moving the ball much better than they had in the past and I think that’s been one of the keys to their success offensively,” he added.
Aside from Perez, Vic Manuel and Mo Tautuaa have been coming alive for the Beermen. Saddled by varying ailments during the Commissioner’s Cup, the two have been playing assertively for the vaunted club as of late.
Barangay Ginebra, meanwhile, is now the team that has to deal with injuries.
The Gin Kings will be playing without Japeth Aguilar and LA Tenorio—two integral cogs in their championship machine that saw the club rule this conference four times in its last five editions.
But like Perez stepping up for the Beermen, the Gin Kings have enjoyed a resurgence of play from Christian Standhardinger.
Standhardinger has been churning double-doubles with the same frequency as he did when he was at NorthPort. That fine play—which has been complementary to that of Scottie Thompson and Justin Brownlee—has made him an early leader in the race for the Best Player of the Conference.
Against the dangerous and deep San Miguel, however, Standhardinger’s role will have to change once again.
“Christian was our June Mar stopper and he was the best player in the league in terms of matching up to June Mar. Now that June Mar isn’t there, his duties will change,” Cone said of his high-IQ and high-motor ward.
“We’ll try to put him in a position where we can take the most advantage of his defensive skills whether it’s going to be on the help side or it’s going to be guarding the import himself or whatever.”