Five Reasons Why San Mig Super Coffee Will Win the Grand Slam

AZ Reid and Marc Pingris are set to bump heads in the 2014 Govs' Cup Finals!
(image by Paolo Papa/Sports 5)

As I write this, Game 1 of the 2014 PBA Governors’ Cup Finals between the San Mig Super Coffee Mixers and the Rain or Shine Elasto-Painters is thirty minutes from starting. These are the last two teams left standing, this is the last series to be played, and this is the last conference title up for grabs in the PBA’s 2013-2014 season.

In one corner, we have Tim Cone’s Mixers in their fourth straight Finals appearance. They’ve won their last three and are looking to complete an elusive Grand Slam. If they do it, this would be Cone’s second Grand Slam (his first was with the Alaska franchise in 1996).

On the other corner, we have Yeng Guiao’s Elasto-Painters, who have also been one of the league’s most consistently competitive teams as this is their fourth Finals appearance in the last seven conferences (2012 Govs’ Cup, 2013 Philippine Cup, and 2014 Philippine Cup). Rain or Shine’s last title was that 2012 Govs’ Cup crown, which they pocketed at the hands of, as fate would have it, the B-Meg Llamados (the former moniker of the Mixers).

Needless to say, there is just no overstating this series.

In the end, however, if push comes to shove and if we were to put cold hard on the table, the smart bet would be San Mig Super Coffee repeating as Govs’ Cup champs, annexing its fourth diadem in a row, and earning the new millennium’s first Grand Slam.

And here are the reasons:

1) Rookie Power
I honestly don’t think either Ian Sangalang or Justin Melton will win Rookie of the Year (that’s reserved for Ginebra’s Greg Slaughter I think), but I also think SMC wouldn’t have been able to win its first two titles this season if not for the efforts of these two greenhorns. Let’s look at their conference averages heading into the Finals:

Ian Sangalang - 5.7ppg, 5.6rpg, .409 FG%
Justin Melton - 4.1ppg, 1.3rpg, 1.2apg, .176 3pt%, .375 FG%, .833 FT%

In the Mixers’ only elims game against the Painters this conference, Sangalang came off the bench to play 31 minutes, scoring 14 points and grabbing 13 rebounds. He more than held his own opposite ROS’s vaunted frontline. He outplayed fellow rookie Raymond Almazan, who registered 10 markers and 6 boards for the Painters. Melton, for his part, had 7 points and 2 rebounds off the bench, playing 25 spot minutes for stalwarts PJ Simon and James Yap.

Both are potent and seemingly tireless weapons coach Cone can pull off the bench, and if they can provide the sparks they usually do, then SMC should be in good shape.

2) Veterans Vavoom!
As good as those two freshies are, however, there’s no question that the Mixers’ fortunes will rest on the performance of their feared veteran core. The backcourt trio of Simon, Yap, and Mark Barroca is more than a match for ROS’s own talented guards, while SMC’s pair of complementary forwards — Marc Pingris and Joe Devance — will definitely give coach Yeng fits.

(At this point, I stop writing because the game has started. James Yap comes up big again. There’s a controversial non-call. SMC storms back to win Game One. Not surprisingly, coach Yeng isn’t too pleased.)

And there goes Game 1 in the books, with SMC’s veterans, indeed, proving the big difference. PJ Simon scored a team-high 18 points, Marc Pingris was good with 14 points and 5 assists (not rebounds!), while James Yap lived up to his billing by banging in 10 of his 14 points in the fourth quarter.

3) Championship Poise
When it comes actually winning championships, to actually winning the big games, to actually coming back from deficits, is there any team in recent memory that has done it better than the Mixers? Nope.

Remember Denzel Bowles’s hitting those two FTs in Game 7 against TNT in the 2012 Commish Cup when SMC was still B-Meg?

Remember the Mixers going 6-3 in the elims to beat Alaska, Meralco, and then powerhouse Petron Blaze in the 2013 Govs’ Cup playoffs?

Remember them going 3-7 in the 2013-2014 Philippine Cup elims before winning 4 straight to enter the second round with a 7-7 slate? Remember them beating the Texters in 3 games in the quarters, beating a resurgent Ginebra quintet in seven games in the semis, and then beating the Painters in six games to claim the Philippine Cup title?

Remember them getting past a determined Alaska in 3 games in the 2014 Commish Cup quarters and getting past surprising Air 21 in 5 semis games before facing and defeating the unbeaten Tropang Texters in the Finals? Remember their three-peat?

Time and again, the Mixers have proven they have a knack for playing their best when the stakes are the highest, and, judging by Game 1 after they stormed back from a 17-point third quarter hole, I sense the same thing happening again.

4) Cone’s Coaching
Respect goes to coach Yeng. He is a tremendous motivator. He knows how to mold his players into gritty, never-say-die warriors. He has steered the Painters to four Finals appearances in the past three seasons. He is the darling of PBA refs (What is hate if not another form of love, right?).

But he has never won a Grand Slam. He has never won a three-peat. He is not the winningest coach in PBA history (in terms of PBA titles).

Coach Yeng is elite. No question about that.

But coach Tim Cone, man, is still on a different level.

He’s the master of the triangle. He has a knack for bringing out the best even in his bench. He knows when to push guys like Mark Barroca, James Yap, and Marc Pingris and when to lay off the pedal a bit. He has brought out the best in Joe Devance and PJ Simon. He’s ballsy enough to rely on upstarts like Alex Mallari, Ian Sangalang, and Justin Melton.

Oh, and did I mention that he has “produced” good “disciples” in Ginebra’s Jeff Cariaso, former Alaska tactician Luigi Trillo, and current Alaska coach Alex Compton?

On a chessboard, you might check him, but on the hardwood? There is no beating this guy.

5) Coach Yeng’s Volatility
If you put down money on coach Yeng Guiao getting a technical foul at any point in this series, then you’d probably be in for some windfall, especially after what happened in the last few seconds of Game 1. Does anybody really think coach Yeng will take it easy on the refs after that controversial sequence?

I don’t seen coach Yeng getting himself thrown out of a contest anymore this season, but I surely wouldn’t be the least bit shocked if he gets a T or two moving forward. And then, of course, comes the requisite consequences of that kind of action.

I just think that, based on my impressions of coach Tim and coach Yeng, the latter has the stronger tendency to lose his cool and his his grasp on the game. It might not be THE deciding factor, but it’s still pretty significant.

So, the San Mig Super Coffee Mixers will get pushed here all the way to five games, but, in the end, they’ll still hoist the trophy and the cop the Grand Slam?

Agree or disagree?

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1 Comment

Totally Agree!