SAN Miguel Beer completed its PBA Governors' Cup eliminations campaign with enough of a flourish by beating import-less Rain or Shine, 129-116, Friday at the PhilSports Arena.
The Beermen, however, must still play a brief waiting game before finding up where it winds up and who their opponent would be in the quarterfinals that start in just two days' time.
Mo Tautuaa and Vic Manuel each had 23 points while CJ Perez also had a double-double in leading a balanced attack that was sustained even with import Cameron Clark sitting it out in the final 17:13 of the game due to foul trouble as SMB racked up its second straight win to finish with a 9-2 record overall.
The Beermen could even figure in a three-way tie at 9-2 for first place in the team standings if Barangay Ginebra beats TNT later Friday. The Tropang Giga lead at the moment with a 9-1 slate with the Gin Kings at 8-2. If Ginebra wins by three points or less, SMB will secure the top seed with Ginebra taking the No. 2 and TNT No. 3.
Whatever and whoever, the Beermen would still have the twice-to-beat advantage and coach Jorge Gallent has the luxury of having ample time to focus on fixing what isn't right with his team.
"We just have to play good defense. We can't rely on our offense, we can't win. Our main goal is to work on our defense and let it trigger our offense. If we play bad defense our offense will suffer," maintained Gallent. "We really have to work hard for 48 minutes in order to make it far in the playoffs."
Prompting Gallent's comments is the fact that Rain or Shine managed to make it an interesting game by unleashing a 14-0 run in the second quarter to raze a 23-36 deficit and build enough momentum for as much as a 49-41 lead.
In a period spanning the last two quarters, the Elasto Painters again rattled off 12 straight points to come within 93-100 before the Beermen righted themselves chiefly behind Manuel and Tautuaa for a 13-0 counter that made it an unassailable 113-93 count.
"It was just the defense," said Gallent, visibly far from pleased despite his team's follow-up to its 120-106 conquest of NLEX last Wednesday that assured it of a top three finish.
"We just relaxed again on defense. The usual thing, we were up by 13 and then we relaxed again. They had a lot of open three-point shots that weren't contested," added Gallent.
"In the first half we didn't have pride in our individual defense but in the second half it became a bit better. Nothing great, but it became better."
Firepower was indeed something SMB did not lack in as Perez, Clark and Marcio Lassiter had 20 points each, marking the first time five teammates had at least 20 points each since the Beermen had as many doing so during the 2018 Governors Cup finals against Ginebra. Perez also matched Tautuaa's 12 rebounds.
Gian Mamuyac's new career-high 23 points paced the E-Painters who officially wound up at 10th and looking to beef up in the long interval prior to the next season that starts in mid-October. (NC)
San Miguel 129 - Manuel 23, Tautuaa 23, Lassiter 20, Clark 20, Perez 20, Cruz 12, Bulanadi 5, Herndon 3, Enciso 2, Faundo 1, Brodnial 0, Canete 0, Ross 0.
Rain or Shine 116 - Mamuyac 23, Borboran 15, Belga 12, Torres 12, Demusis 12, Namabatac 9, Asistio 7, Nieto 7, Ildefonso 7, Nieto 7, Santillan 6, Yap 4, Caracut 2, Clarito 0, Ponferrada 0.
Quarters: 36-23, 62-56, 100-91, 129-116.