MANILA, Philippines -- After winning their first three games by an average margin of 20 points, the San Miguel Beermen were tested on Sunday evening against the Magnolia Hotshots at the Araneta Coliseum.
The Beermen had romped past Phoenix Super LPG [114-93], Blackwater Bossing [105-86] and TerraFirma Dyip [122-102] in their first three assignments of the 2023 PBA Governors' Cup. Magnolia proved to be a tougher customer, as the Hotshots nearly erased a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter.
San Miguel managed to hold on for a 100-98 win, thanks to big buckets by import Cameron Clark and an important stop in the closing seconds against Magnolia superstar Paul Lee.
Head coach Jorge Gallent was pleased that his players turned the game around but noted the need for improvement after their poor performance on defense early in the contest. The first quarter was particularly concerning, as San Miguel squandered a 12-point lead and gave up 29 points to the Hotshots.
"Our defense always triggers the offense. If we play bad defense, which we did in the first quarter, and which I pointed out to them, the opponents will score a lot," said Gallent, who officially took over as SMB's head coach in the season-ending Governors' Cup.
"We struggled with our offense in the first half, because … we weren't playing defense. We weren't reversing the ball, we're just playing 1-on-1, and that's not us. We had to play as a unit for us to progress offensively," he added.
They "definitely" need to work on their late-game execution as well, after Magnolia forced them into a late shotclock violation that left the door open for the Hotshots. Still, Gallent is proud to see his team survive their first true test of the conference and earn a share of the lead.
"This is a test for us. Magnolia is a very strong and well-organized team. So this game was really big, a big game for us, just to put us to where we stand in this league," he added.
"I told the players to forget about the first three games, because Magnolia is a really strong and good, good team. So it's good that we won tonight, beating a strong team," he added.
San Miguel guns for a 5-0 start on Thursday against Meralco at the Araneta Coliseum.
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