Close results tell another story behind Beermen’s spotless Philippine Cup run

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Enoch Valdez of NLEX tries to defend CJ Perez of San Miguel during the PBA Philippine Cup.–MARLO CUETO/INQUIRER.net

San Miguel Beer stayed unbeaten in nine games, solidified its leadership of the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Philippine Cup, and clinched a twice-to-beat advantage with its 120-103 conquest of undermanned NLEX on Sunday night.And when asked whether sweeping its way to the league’s crown jewel is next for his charges, coach Jorge Gallent let out a chuckle.

“No,” he said in the customary postgame presser at PhilSports Arena in Pasig City. “Our next goal is the next game.”

“We’re just going step-by-step. As of now, we’re just thinking of our 10th game, which [is against] Blackwater,” he added.

Despite the outrageous wealth of talent the club has, Gallent has been navigating San Miguel’s title-retention bid with utmost caution. He has used metaphors such as “ladders” and “steps” to guard against complacency.

And that approach has reverberated within San Miguel’s quarters. Skipper Chris Ross, one of the club’s elder statesmen, recently said that there had been no talk of a sweep and counting of how many victims the Beermen have claimed until reporters covering the games have given him a tally.Even Marcio Lassiter, who has been moving up the All-Time list for triples made, conversations in the locker room have been limited to figuring out how to sustain the team’s hot run.

“While we want to be playing our best basketball throughout, we also want to stay as healthy as we can,” he previously told the Inquirer, adding that their sights are set on bringing their current success to the playoffs.

Scrap tooth and nail

The Beermen may have a point: Numbers indicate that half of their victories in this all-Filipino tournament went down to the wire.

The Beermen have only won by double-digits a total of four times, and those games were against a then-disjointed Rain or Shine (12 points), shorthanded Phoenix (14), a young NorthPort crew that struggled to cope with a skid (20), and a Road Warriors team missing Best Player of the Conference frontrunner Robert Bolick (17).Gallent and his charges had to scrap tooth and nail with traditional powerhouses like TNT (two points), Barangay Ginebra (four), and Magnolia (seven) just to capture the win.

“If we play the same way we’ve been playing the first nine games then it wouldn’t be a bother for me—or us. As long as we truly play for 48 minutes, knowing our roles, then we’ll be OK,” he said.

San Miguel shoots for win No. 10 against a reeling Blackwater this Wednesday at Ultra. The vaunted club then wraps up its elimination round schedule against Meralco. INQ



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