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PBA: Petron, San Mig break tie tonight

Cabagnot is doubtful starter
by Tito S. Talao

ALEX CabagnotGame Today (Smart Araneta)
8 p.m. – San Mig vs Petron

Manila, Philippines – Petron, still reeling from the disparity in free thows awarded them and to San Mig Coffee, may have to play Game 3 of the PLDTTelpad PBA Governors’ Cup Finals without playmaker Alex Cabagnot at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Cabagnot is nursing a painful plantar facitis on his right foot and is now in crutches.

Both in victory in Game 1 and in defeat in Game 2, Petron Blaze coach Gee Abanilla has called attention to the number of fouls called against his players.

He has also taken exception to three of his key players fouling out last Sunday which he said “changed the complexion of the game.”

Abanilla has a point – to some extent.

So far, San Mig has been given 71 fouls shots while Petron has scraped for 43 (55 to 31 in Game 2). A total of 54 fouls have also been called on the Boosters, 39 of them with passage to the stripe; the Mixers got whistled for 26, 21 with awards.

Still, this may be a good time as any for the Boosters’ rookie mentor to take a good look as well at other things, like their defensive strategy on San Mig’s Marqus Blakely, their love affair with the
three-point shot, and their distaste for mixing it up under the offensive glass – all of which, if dealt with, could probably contribute in getting them more charities in the future.

“We still don’t know why we can’t go to the free throws line,” said Abanilla after the Boosters’ 100-93 loss that tied the series at 1-1.

“Are we not attacking enough? Aren’t we aggressive enough? We need clarification. How do you teach something you don’t know? How do you give something you don’t have?”

Apparently not – in answer to the first two questions. Going to Game 3 of the best-of-7 championship series at 8 tonight, the Boosters may want to consider that they might be wasting too many fouls on Blakely, being overly dependent on the 3-point shot, and slacking in the battle for extra possessions and second-chance baskets under the offensive glass.

Granting the conference best import isn’t the best free throw shooter to ever reinforce a PBA ballclub. But he got 14 attempts in Game 1 (making 8) and a whopping 21 in Game 2 (converting 7).

And those were freebies that resulted only from fouls made in the act of shooting and in penalty, not when he’s in transition or had just received the inbounds pass as in Game 2 when Arwind Santos, the Best Player choice, gave up one in the backcourt late in the fourth quarter and Blakely, against his percentages, hit both.

So far Abanilla hasn’t howled that those foul shots were anything but not legit.

Trying to gain possession at the expense of a bad free throw shooter (Hack-a-Shaq), as oppose to defending aggressively as a team for 24 seconds, doesn’t always achieve the desired outcome and could actually backfire down the stretch in a close game.

Six fouls on Elijah Millsap in Game 2? Six on Junmar Fajardo? Six on Santos? Five on Marcio Lassiter? That’s 23 fouls right there.

And considering that San Mig’s PJ Simon and Joe Devance were awarded 10 free throws each as well, then a fouling spree must have taken place that evening.

Did Blakely or Simon or Devance get calls from ticky-tacky contacts by Petron? Abanilla didn’t say.

The Boosters’ may also wish to ponder their penchant for letting fly from afar rather than taking it strong to the basket with their slew of slashers.

San Mig took 56 of its 74 field goal attempts in the first two games inside the 3-point arc where the Mixers have greater chance at getting fouled, while Petron went 46 of 69 within, a 10-shot difference which roughly could have translated into 20 more free throws for the Boosters.

They did pound it inside to Fajardo as frequently as possible in Game 2 and the 6-foot-10 center got off 10 FGs and was gifted with 13 free throws. After Millsap’s 9 foul shots, however, no other Petron player had more than 5 (Alex Cabagnot).

Instead, the Boosters launched 20 treys in Game 1, making 10 (compared to the Mixers’ 2-of-14), and 23 in Game 2, making 8 (compared to San Mig’s 7 of 18).

Who knows, it could be more from design than Petron’s defense that San Mig hotshot James Yap has heaved just six three-point shots while taking 16 two-pointers (with the resulting 10 free throws) in the past two games.

And there’s the matter of gang-rebounding for second- and third-chance baskets which more often invite hacking and smothering fouls.

In two games, San Mig has muscled down 37 offensive rebounds (Blakely 10, Devance 6, Marc Pingris 5); Petron a measly 19. That’s 18 more chances for the Mixers to score outright or get fouled and collect free throws.

Lastly, as a footnote, Petron has turned the ball over 35 times to San Mig’s 33. Insignificant, maybe, but still two less possessions for the Boosters and therefore two less chances to score or get fouled and go to the line in the process.

Meanwhile, Game 4 will be held at the Mall of Asia Arena on Friday, preceded by the Leo Awards where the 2013 Most Valuable Player award will be given, most likely, to either Petron’s Arwind Santos or Barangay Ginebra San Miguel’s LA Tenorio.