San Miguel started its bid for an unprecedented sixth straight Philippine Cup title on the right track after dispatching Magnolia, 94-78, to open the 2020 PBA season Sunday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Playing its first game without newly-minted six-time MVP June Mar Fajardo, who is still recovering from a right shin injury, the Beermen allayed concerns over a lack of offense as they saw five players score in double-figures.
Mo Tautuaa, last season's Most Improved Player, filled the gaping hole in the SMB middle by pouring in 20 points, 11 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocks and a steal. Terrence Romeo backed him up with 19 points and 7 assists in a start.
Arwind Santos also notched a double-double with 15 points and 15 boards to go with five steals, while Marcio Lassiter threw in 17 points on 7-for-11 shooting and 5 dimes. Alex Cabagnot added 10 off the bench.
"I'm happy because the kids surprised me with their play. Both offense and defense, they played really well," said coach Leo Austria. "But we don't have to be complacent because we still have a lot of things to fix. As much as possible, in the first few games we want to win because you cannot afford to lose in the first games. It's hard to catch up."
Tied at 18-all after a seesaw first, San Miguel managed to create some separation in the second behind Tautuaa and Lassiter -- who scored seven each in the quarter and nearly matched a faulty Hotshots offense (15 points on 6-for-22 shots), to take a 45-33 halftime lead.
Three consecutive 3s from Cabagnot and Lassiter and a Tautuaa basket would later give SMB a 60-37 lead for its biggest of the game, but the team had to endure a little scare after Magnolia countered with a massive 17-1 run to slice the lead to just seven with 1:40 left in the third as Jio Jalalon and Mark Barroca went to work.
San Miguel held steady and tacked on six straight to end the period before pulling away from Magnolia, which failed to replicate the inspiring third quarter effort in the final period.
Mo Tautuaa leads Beermen in PBA opener
Mo Tautuaa, last season's most improved player, filled the hole left by June Mar Fajardo and led the Beermen over Magnolia in the Philippine Cup opener.
"I think with this win, the belief that we are still capable of winning is still there.I think with this win, the belief that we are still capable of winning is still there," Austria said as Fajardo watched the first half before leaving to rest. "I hope in the next few games, we don't become complacent."
Paul Lee had 19 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists to pace Magnolia. Jackson Corpuz tallied a 16-point, 13-rebound double-double off the bench, while Ian Sangalang also scored 16 and pulled down 11 boards but struggled with his shot (6-for-17 shooting) against the Beermen.
Magnolia shot just 38.3% from the field against San Miguel's 48.7% and allowed the Beermen to fire 12-for-32 from 3-point range. It also had as many assists as turnovers (22).
"It's like we weren't used to playing. Even our defense was bad. It seems what we prepared for almost two months isn't enough," said coach Chito Victolero. "We'll just watch the tape again to see what we're lacking. We were out-hustled and outworked by San Miguel."
The Hotshots won't play again for seven days and will have ample time to bounce back from this loss when they play the Meralco Bolts.
"San Miguel is still the team to beat because of their experience," Victolero said. "We saw that tonight; San Miguel, even without June Mar, they can play."
SAN MIGUEL (94) -- Tautuaa 20, Romeo 19, Santos 18, Lassiter 17, Cabagnot 10, Ross 4, Zamar 3, Escoto 3, Comboy 0, Gamalinda 0, Pessumal 0.
MAGNOLIA (78) -- Lee 19, Corpuz 16, Sangalang 16, Jalalon 8, Barroca 8, Simon 4, Melton 3, Dela Rosa 3, Banchero 1.
Quarter Scores: 18-18, 45-33, 69-56, 94-78.
- San Miguel's lack of size showed in the rebounding department. Magnolia won the battle on the glass, 55-42.
- Chris Banchero missed all eight of his shots and was a team-worst -27.