Veteran sports anchor and ESPN5.com writer Charlie Cuna gives his two cents on the week that was in the Philippine Basketball Association. He breaks down the period of June 4 to June 10 in the Commissioner's Cup.
Game of the week
In week seven of the PBA Commissioner's Cup, there were seven games played. While our suggested must-watch game of the week, Alaska-Magnolia on Sunday, was indeed a good one, it was another game that earned this distinction. Phoenix and Meralco went into overtime, where the Bolts prevailed 103-100.
The game was special not just because it was close and needed an extra period, but it is hard to recall a recent game where there were just so many clutch shots hit one after the other. Niño Canaleta, Jared Dillinger, Chris Newsome, Baser Amer, and even Arinze Onuaku, who hit two free throws "when it counted," after being horrendous from the line prior to that, all scored in the clutch for Meralco.
Not to be outdone until the very end, Jeff Chan, Jason Perkins, Matthew Wright, and Eugene Phelps kept Phoenix's flame burning. Canaleta (30 points, 6 threes) and Wright (28 points, 6 threes) were the most outstanding from outside, and at one point, it seemed Wright would will his team to victory with his long-range marksmanship. The Bolts, however, proved steadier in extra time, to pull out the squeaker of a win.
Top performance of the week by a local
There were lots of outstanding performances in the past week. Aside from Canaleta and Wright, among others, in the Phoenix-Meralco duel, the San Miguel Beer duo of JuneMar Fajardo (37 points, 18 rebounds) and Alex Cabagnot (20 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists) stood out in their win against Columbian. However, it's hard to choose anyone else over Vic Manuel of the Alaska Aces, in the close win over Magnolia.
The Muscleman finished with yet another career-high of 35 points on 14-of-20 field goals (70%). It was not just his scoring output that stood out, but his accuracy and the array of shots he converted. There were jumpers, scoops, up-and-unders, finger-rolls, twists and turns that bamboozled his defenders and delighted the crowd and televiewers nationwide. He simply put on a show. Now completely healthy and thriving under the tutelage of Alaska assistant coach and two-time PBA MVP Danny Ildefonso, Manuel is making it look too easy against any defender.
Top performance of the week by an import
Phoenix's Eugene Phelps muscled his way to 31 points and 26 rebounds in his team's overtime loss to Meralco. There were times when there were two or three Bolts hanging on to him, yet he still was able to score. Undersized in this conference, yet bull-strong and determined, Phelps has got to be the strongest import, pound for pound. He must improve his free throw shooting, however (only 11 of 20 in the three-point loss), but he earns this past week's top performance by an import by a nose, over Renaldo Balkman (27 points, 18 rebounds, 6 assists).
Disappointing performance of the week
While he did score twenty-one points in a close loss to Alaska in the last game of the week, the most disappointing performance of the week was Paul Lee's in the Magnolia Hotshots' game against then-winless Blackwater on Wednesday. The Elite had lost seven straight and their import, Henry Walker, did not play well at all, all-game long. The Hotshots had a golden opportunity to get a much-needed victory, yet faltered pitifully.
Lee, who should be the team's main gunner, especially in the absence of injured Ian Sangalang, was tentative on offense and lackadaisical on defense en route to just three points on sixteen percent shooting (1-of-6). In crunch time, the ball never got to him. While every player is entitled to a bad game, Lee's role in Magnolia is huge. He came to this team in lieu of James Yap, who, oftentimes, was their closer. The team needs him to step up going forward, especially since they lost yet another one versus Alaska just four days later.
Must-see for this week
The Manila Clasico (Ginebra-Magnolia) will happen on Sunday, as the last game of the week, and that is always an anticipated game. However, on Saturday, in the second game of a double-header, on-the-rise San Miguel will meet dominating TNT. Hulking Joshua Smith will have a go against Fajardo, and the dream backcourt matchups (Cabagnot, Ross, Lassiter - Castro, Romeo, Garcia) are enough to make this possibly the best match-up for the week. Don't miss it.