Rocking the Boat

SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson - The Philippine Star

Its not like theyve never matched up beforeMagnolias Tyler Bey and San Miguel Beers Bennie Boatwright have dueled since their NCAA days although not on a marquee platformThey know each other wellIn the raging PBA Commissioners Cup Finals, their mano-a-mano battle is on center stage, like a boxing match between Ali and FrazierWhos who isnt determined at the momentWhen the series ends, well find out.

For Boatwright, its been rough sailing in Manila Bey the last two games of the FinalsBey is rocking the Boat and coach Jorge Gallents challenge is to figure out a way to get his main man back on trackIn the elims, Boatwright was virtually unstoppable, averaging 40.3 points and shooting .429 from beyond the arcIn the Finals, his clip has dipped to 26.3.  In Game Four last Friday, Boatwright was held to a conference-low 16 points and knocked down only 1-of-9 threesIn Game Two which San Miguel won, he erupted for 34 points and buried 7-of-16 triples.

Bey has been designated as Boatwrights primary defenderIn Game Three which Magnolia won, Bey sacrificed his offense to focus on making life miserable for BoatwrightBey finished with a conference-low 11 points while Boatwright netted 27 but shot only 35.7 percent from the floor, 30.8 percent from threeBoatwright struggled for every point as Bey wouldnt allow a good lookBey went over screens, kept in step whenever Boatwright drove in and stayed home on the perimeterIn Game Four, Bey did the same thing and this time, Boatwright showed signs of wearing out, shooting only 5-of-16.

Magnolias defense has been the difference in the last two outings, limiting San Miguel to an average of 82.5 points when in the first two encounters, the Beermen hit at a 106 clipIn the elims, San Miguel averaged 23.5 assistsIn the last two games of the Finals, it was down to 15.5, indicating Magnolias success in obstructing the passing lanes and forcing San Miguel to play one-on-one.

Coach Chito Victoleros gambit of playing small is paying off dividendsThe Hotshots are setting the tone with guard play on both endsRafi Reavis, James Laput and Abu Tratter arent getting their usual minutes because of the small lineup but they know the adjustment was necessary to bring Magnolias pace backThe Hotshotsproductivity off the bench has been a factor with Victoleros deeper rotation pressing the actionMagnolias bench is averaging 38.8 points in the Finals compared to San Miguels 23.5. In Game Four, San Miguel tried to match Magnolias feisty play by also going small but its not the Beermens style not to play big.

Adjustments will be made in Game Five tonightIf June Mar Fajardo isnt 100 percent, it will mean realigning the frontcourt and moving Boatwright to center or playing Mo Tautuaa more in the middleTerrence Romeos absence is telling and if hes back on the court, it will draw attention from Jio Jalalon and Mark BarrocaThe Martilyo Boys will need to be more daring with Don Trollano, Jericho Cruz and Jeron Teng on the attackSan Miguels offense cant afford to sputterThe Beermen havent lost three in a row this conference but Magnolia is out to extend their skid.

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