San Miguel 111 – TNT 102, San Miguel leads the series 3-2
Arwind Santos used to be one of the most feared players in Philippine Basketball. In the UAAP, he was practically an immovable force which opposing teams could not rattle. In the PBA, he slowly morphed himself into a superhero named Spiderman with the use of his long arms and athletic ability. He may have just won one MVP (that was pretty controversial nonetheless) so far, but don’t let the fool you into thinking that Santos was a sub-par player. You can make a case that he’s been one of the most dominant players in a long time.
Nowadays, pinning the title of dominant beside Santos’s name is downright foolish. Players like Jayson Castro, June Mar Fajardo, Calvin Abueva and even Chris Ross are the ones who truly deserve that title. They’re game-changing talents that bend teams’ game plans when it comes to trying to defend them, or for the case of Ross, trying to score on them. Santos isn’t exactly that kind of talent anymore. He’s turned himself into a superb role player by all means, doing the dirty work that’s needed. At the same time, he normally comes off the bench now in lieu of Charles Rhodes who plays the Power Forward position for the starting five of the Beermen. It’s tough for an MVP to be able to take that much of a step back, but Santos has embraced the role that Coach Leo Austria has put him in.
Right now, we no longer think of him as a player that he’s super. He’s seen by many non-San Miguel fans as someone who’s downright annoying for a team to go up against. His antics are disgusting for many. The interview quotes which he gives the media after games annoy fans. The gall that he has to release an album makes teams sick.
But for one game, Santos showed that he’s more than just the player who has a song that’s entitled “Bagyo”. He’s not just a mere annoyance that opposing coaches have to deal with. He’s is actually a player who’s worth keeping an eye on in this San Miguel Beermen super team. He was able to do it in a pivotal Game 5 nonetheless.
With the luxury of being one game away from a title on the line, Spiderman churned out his best game as a Beerman in a long time by putting up 27 points on an efficient 11/16 shooting from the field, 8 rebounds, 2 steals and 5 blocks. If you’re SMB, the 27 points is a huge bonus considering that Rhodes and Cabagnot are the ones who normally do the heavy lifting when it comes to scoring. But what really stands out with his line is how he managed to churn out 2 steals and 5 blocks.
Normally, Santos isn’t the one who’s capable of putting up defensive numbers like that. It’s Chris Ross to fill-up the stat sheet. But courtesy of those stats, finally, fans have a metric to look at when trying to assess his value in the defensive end of the floor. Santos’ contributions were necessary for SMB to be able to win this game, considering that TNT’s small ball line-ups were giving The Kraken such a difficult time on the defensive end. He’s been the safety net of San Miguel on defense, considering that his length and versatility make it possible for him to help out on double teams or to act as recovery once a player’s man gets free. In this case, he managed to step-up big time for the Beermen.
It’s easy to view this game as Santos just deciding to get the spotlight again by being a ballhog or whatnot. That’s not the case at all. He was able to showcase his talents by doing the things that he’s incredibly good at. Acting as the help defender from the weak side, and giving quick doubles when there is a need for it. Most importantly, giving the Beerman the spark that they need when their three-time MVP is struggling to get going. By all accounts, Santos is still the Spiderman superhero that he call him by, and he showed that he’s still an elite level talent, even for just one game.