SMB 72 – Ginebra 70
Paul Millsap has been all over the news lately. The Atlanta Hawks forward is on the trading block and his name has been floated around in several trade rumors. It’s rare to hear news about Paul Millsap. He does his work without much flash or fuss. You can pretty much expect 17 points, eight rebounds and three assists every night he plays. But beyond the numbers, Millsap does a lot of the little things that help his team win.
Reading all about Millsap the past few days has got me thinking. Who is most like Paul Millsap in the PBA? Who is that versatile, un-flashy forward that goes to work every night to help his team win? After the game between San Miguel Beer and Barangay Ginebra, I’m convinced that Arwind Santos is that guy.
Santos has built a career around his consistency as a player. He’s not one of those incandescent stars that burn out after a short period of time. Santos is good for at least 15 points, seven rebounds, plus a block and a steal per night. There may be some nights where he plays better or worse, but his numbers won’t stray far away from his averages.
The Spiderman has also been able to remake his game, changing it based on the needs of the current makeup of his team. During the height of his prime, Santos was one of the few forwards in the league that could do it all on the court. Jumpers, post game, offensive rebounds, slash to the basket, you name it, he had it.
In the past few years though, Santos has been used primarily as a stretch-four to complement June Mar Fajardo’s inside game. He focused on his outside jumper and doing the dirty work for his team. Just like Millsap, Santos also contributes beyond the numbers. He does a lot of little things that don’t appear on the stat sheet to help San Miguel win.
This was evident in the final few seconds of the Beermen’s win against Ginebra.
The Barangay came into the game needing a win to boost their playoff hopes. They were playing a dominant San Miguel team that was leading the league. Ginebra devised a defensive game plan that would force the rest of the Beermen to beat them rather than allow Fajardo to beast inside. They constantly swarmed the Kraken and forced him to give up the ball. Fajardo only scored nine points on six shots.
But even if Fajardo was being limited, the Beermen were able to build a cushion heading into the final few minutes of the game. True to Ginebra’s battle cry though, they chipped away at the Beermen lead and cut it down to just two points, 72-70 in the final few minutes of the game.
The Beermen needed a big play to save the win. With less than a minute left in the game, Cabagnot had the ball at the top of the key. He burned the shot clock down to 11 seconds before he made his move. He waved off the screen, dribbled to the left wing and launched a 28-foot three-pointer. The dagger was short and it bounced off the front of the rim.
Scottie Thompson tipped the ball away, and as he went to collect it, Arwind jumped in to grab the offensive rebound. He threw the ball out to reset the play. Cabagnot once again burned clock and dribbled closer to the top of the three-point arc for another potential dagger.
This time it was long. The ball bounced high off the back iron. Santos watched the ball move in the air and he timed his jump perfectly. Using his long limbs, he reached higher than everyone else to secure yet another game-saving offensive rebound.
The ball found its way to Marcio Lassiter who was fouled. But the sharpshooter missed both free throws to keep the door open for Ginebra to tie the game or win.
On the final possession of the game, LA Tenorio used a Japeth Aguilar screen to free himself up. He had a clear space to dribble all the way to the free throw line where he had a wide-open floater. Santos recovered just in time to get a hand in the way altering the game-tying shot. Fittingly, the ball was tapped Santos’ way after the miss and he dribbled time away to preserve the win.
It was an ugly win for San Miguel, but a win nonetheless. Santos finished with a double-double of 10 points and 12 rebounds. But more than his numbers, it was his game-saving plays in the final minute that mattered most.
Based on all the teams being linked to Millsap, it’s easy to understand why everyone in the league wants him on their roster. He’s the type of player that can turn a playoff team into a championship contender. Fortunately for San Miguel, they already have that kind of player in Arwind Santos.