HALF a decade can surely make a whole of a difference.
It’s been five years since San Miguel Beer and Magnolia last battled in a PBA Finals back in the 2013 Governors’ Cup that the Hotshots, then known as the San Mig Coffee, won in seven games after being down, 1-2, in the series.
And a lot has happened since then, with the Purefoods franchise winning a Grand Slam the next season, before SMB replaced them as the league’s most dominant team the year after.
Before the two proud SMC conglomerate squads face off in the finals again, starting Game One on Friday night, let’s look at some of the factors that favored the Mixers the last time they met on this stage.
Pinoy Sakuragi effect
Marc Pingris was the Finals MVP of that series, averaging 12.6 points on 55.2-percent shooting, 8.5 boards, 3 assists, and 1.5 blocks in seven games, highlighted by his herculean effort in the deciding game where he pumped in 19 points, 17 boards, and five blocks.
But the Hotshots star is absent this time due to an ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) injury he suffered in the semifinals against NLEX.
The Mixers benefitted from Best Import Marqus Blakely, who averaged 26.1 points on 51.2-percent shooting, 16.7 boards, five assists, 2.7 blocks, and 1.3 steals in 41.9 minutes in the eliminations. The Petron Boosters (before they reverted back to San Miguel), on the other hand, turned to Elijah Millsap, who normed 29.3 points, 2.4 triples, 10.9 rebounds, 4.9 assists, and 1.8 steals in 41.3 minutes in 12 games in the playoffs.
But now, both sides turn to their locals in leading them to the most prestigious title in the league.
Veteran local crew
San Mig boasted the likes of James Yap, Joe Devance, rookies Alex Mallari and Jewel Ponferrada, Allein Maliksi, Leo Najorda, lucky charm Jerwin Garco, and Yancy de Ocampo, who’s now on the other side. Now, the Hotshots still have Mark Barroca, PJ Simon, and Rafi Reavis.
Petron also had a stacked, veteran crew then of Chris Lutz, Ronald Tubid, Danny Ildefonso, Denok Miranda, Doug Kramer, Mark Isip, and Paolo Hubalde, but eventual two-time Finals MVP Chris Ross was still with Meralco that time.
But the Beermen have the clear edge with their fearsome five of Ross, Alex Cabagnot, Marcio Lassiter, Arwind Santos, and June Mar Fajardo.
Fajardo was just a 23-year-old rookie then, although he already averaged 17.5 points on 64.3 shooting, 13.3 boards, 1.1 assists, and 1.1 blocks in 35.8 minutes in 12 games in those playoffs.
But now, the Cebuano giant has won four MVPs and has been through numerous playoff battles, coming into the series averaging 22.9 points on 65.4-percent shooting, 12.9 boards, 1.9 assists, and 1.8 blocks in 37.6 minutes in 16 games this conference.
The Mixers had the clear advantage with Tim Cone, the league’s most successful coach, at the helm, and current SMB team manager Gee Abanilla coaching the Boosters.
Now, the Beermen have three-time Coach of the Year Leo Austria against first-time finalist Chito Victolero.