Sports anchor and ESPN5.com writer Chuck Araneta gives his two cents on the week that was in the Philippine Basketball Association. He breaks down the third week of the Commissioner's Cup, spanning the period of May 6 to 13.
Game of the week
There were two games that went to overtime in the third week of PBA action, but the most exciting one came on Mother's Day Sunday.
It was a tale of two teams looking to bounce back in a big way. The San Miguel Beermen lost their first game of the conference to the Meralco Bolts, and were eager to flash their dangerous form. Ditto for Christian Standhardinger, who made his debut in the PBA that game but struggled to find his groove and rhythm with his new squad.
Rain or Shine was in revenge mode as well. They were the hottest team of the conference with an undefeated 3-0 card before the Columbian Dyip snapped their skid last Wednesday. It was a frustrating loss for the Elasto Painters, as the Columbian franchise got their second straight win this season against ROS.
With the two teams determined to grab a win, it was an absolute classic at the Ynares Center in Antipolo City. The Beermen improved from their first showing, ironically with the ejection of their import Troy Gillenwater. They raced to a lead as big as 17 points.
In previous conferences, that margin would have been good enough to keep teams at bay. But Rain or Shine showed the toughness that defined their run to the title in 2016. They battled back, sent the game into overtime, and picked up the hard-fought victory, 123-119. It helped that both June Mar Fajardo and Arwind Santos fouled out of the physical, chippy affair. But the duo of Reggie Johnson (27 points, 19 rebounds) and a rejuvenated Raymond Almazan (25 points, 14 rebounds) were stellar in sealing Rain or Shine's fourth win.
Top performance of the week by a local
It's time to give Vic Manuel his due at this spot.
For the past few conferences, we haven't seen a Manuel who's been at 100 percent. Injuries and limited minutes off the bench conspired to keep The Muscleman from showing his dominating form on the floor, and his absence was a big reason why Alaska has struggled to get back to the upper echelon of the league.
But Manuel has been on a tear as of late, earning him Player of the Week honors. In less than 20 minutes per game, he's put up double-double performances as Alaska's leading local scorer. His opus was his performance against the TNT KaTropa on Sunday, when he paced the squad with 29 points and 12 rebounds en route to a 110-100 win over erstwhile undefeated TNT.
To date, Manuel has set a new career high in three consecutive games. He's on some kind of a roll.
Top performance of the week by an import
The whispers were loud after John Fields' arrival to the Columbian Dyip. Though he scored 39 points, his team suffered a blowout loss to the Alaska Aces, and many wondered why the Dyip let go of their previous import, CJ Aiken, in the first place. After all, the Dyip were a surprising 2-1 during Aiken's stint. Why fix something that what wasn't broken?
Well, the whispers have died down after Fields led the Dyip to a 104-96 win over the Elasto Painters. Fields lead his squad in scoring, tallying 34 points, to go along with 11 rebounds, five assists and a block. He was active on the floor in 40 minutes, providing the energy and inside presence that Columbian coach Ricky Dandan coveted from him.
It remains to be seen if his great game is the exception or the norm. But one thing's for sure, Columbian is showing that they're no longer the pushovers of the PBA.
Disappointing performance of the week
It's hard to put much stock into what San Miguel has shown in their first week of action. After all, they're the defending champions, they've got a No. 1 pick that they're trying to ingrain into their legendary lineup, and they've got Leo Austria, their brilliant coach who has the pulse of this team.
That being said, being 0-2 is definitely not something we're used to from the Beermen. The match against Rain or Shine was their best shot at announcing they were ready to roll once again, but it just didn't happen for them. Standhardinger looked much better in his second game, but they're still trying to figure out the right rotation. In their first game, they had Arwind Santos come off the bench. Against Rain or Shine, it was Marcio Lassiter who took the sixth man role.
They also have to make a decision about Gillenwater. It was pretty damning that the team took off and went on a big run when they went with their all-local lineup. We know that a certain dreadlocked import, who has history with the Beermen, is waiting in the wings as a possible replacement. Will the Beermen pull the trigger, or ride it out with Troy? Time will tell.
Spoiler: SMB's problems are the equivalent of #firstworldproblems. They're going to be fine.
Must-see for the week
The game between Alaska and San Miguel on May 19 will be a great matchup.
These two teams obviously have history. The Aces are the hottest team in the PBA and the Beermen are desperate to end their losing streak. Will they stick with Gillenwater? Will they go in a different direction? Who will start, and conversely who's coming off the bench?
Expect that match to be an absolute slugfest in Dumaguete.