2021 PBA Philippine Cup Semifinals: Mighty TNT Goes Up Against a Complete San Miguel Crew

The TNT Tropang Giga will battle the San Miguel Beermen in an explosive best-of-seven semifinals series.

Original photos via PBA Images

Team Stats Comparison

TeamsOffensive RatingDefensive RatingNet RatingPace
TNT100.3 (6th)88.9 (1st)+11.4(1st)88.7 (6th)
San Miguel106.8 (1st)99.9 (7th)+6.9 (3rd)90.7 (1st)
*Numbers courtesy of Stats by Ryan on Dribble Media

Key Individual Performers

Mikey Williams, TNT: 18.4 points (2nd) on 52.6% TS%, 4.2 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 1.2 steals, 5.5 VORP or Value Over Replacement Player (2nd), 5.3% adjusted turnover percentage (4th)

Terrence Romeo, San Miguel: 19.0 points (1st) on 55.5 TS%, 4.5 assists, 3.2 rebounds, 1.5 steals (tied for 7th), 8.8 Box Creation (1st), 6.2 Offensive Box Plus/Minus (1st)

The band is back for San Miguel

With the return of Terrence Romeo and Alex Cabagnot in their quarterfinals battle against NorthPort, San Miguel suddenly has a complete crew at their disposal. Cabagnot’s 20-point performance, iced with a game-winning jumper, in his first game back shook off any concerns of a lingering injury. Romeo also returned during the series clincher and put up a decent stat line of 11 points, 4 rebounds, and 2 assists in just 20 minutes of play.

When talking about San Miguel’s offense this conference, the spotlight has shone on Romeo’s brilliance and June Mar Fajardo’s lack of activity. But it’s not every day that you have two star-caliber players coming off the bench, and the Beermen have that luxury in the form of CJ Perez and Mo Tautuaa. During Romeo’s absence in the second half of the eliminations, Perez immediately became the best player for the team. He is averaging 17.2 points on a decent 53.7% true shooting percentage, and his eighth-best 3.5 VORP rating means that he is among the top impactful players in the league.

On the other hand, Tautuaa is also inflicting damage off the bench, as he is putting up 11.8 points and 5.4 boards in just 23.1 minutes of play. He has been ultra-efficient with his shots, as evidenced by his 54.8/35.0/70.0 shooting splits for a stellar 61.2% TS%. Per Stats by Ryan, an advanced stats platform for Philippine basketball, Tautuaa’s TS% rating is ranked third among players averaging at least 15 minutes and have logged at least six games this conference.

In their quarterfinals sweep of the Batang Pier, Perez and Tautuaa combined for an average of 33.5 points on 51.1% shooting off the bench. So far, the consistency and the scoring boost provided by these two San Miguel reserves have been instrumental in how the team has overcome Fajardo’s inactivity.

How will the TNT lead guards answer the call?

The Tropang Giga lost only once this conference — an 83-67 beating at the hands of the Beermen last September 8. San Miguel’s lead went as high as 27 points, and the game was over right after the opening quarter. So many things went wrong in that game for TNT, and it didn’t help that Mikey Williams and Jayson Castro, their top two guards, only combined for eight points, four turnovers, and a 3-of-15 shooting from the floor.

Of course, Williams has been on his A-game since that excruciating loss to San Miguel, and that’s why he is one of the current frontrunners for the Best Player of the Conference award. Despite the fact that he has carried much of the team’s responsibilities on offense, as evidenced by his team-high 39.5 rating in offensive load (OffLoad), Williams has a very low turnover count. He only has a 5.3% adjusted turnover percentage (aTO%), which is an indicator of his efficiency as a ball-handler and playmaker.

Castro, who is now coming off the bench for the Tropang Giga, has been unusually quiet in the past several games. He has failed to eclipse double digits in field goal attempts in the last six games, so whether he is suffering from a minor injury or he’s just preserving his energy for the more important playoff games is a question that Castro can answer based on his performance in this series against the Beermen.

Prediction: San Miguel escapes and books a Finals ticket

This is probably one of the most exciting and most unpredictable series in recent years. TNT holds the best defensive rating in the league, while San Miguel has the best offense. TNT has always found a way to shut down the best players on the opposing team, but this is a San Miguel squad that has seven star-caliber players, and they have been playing with each other for years (with the exception of Perez). 

There’s also a growing instinct that Fajardo will finally assert himself in this series. Sure, he only had eight points in their first win against TNT, but San Miguel also pounded their counterparts down low, scoring 52 of their 83 total points inside the paint. The Beermen have remarkable shooters in Cabagnot, Romeo, Marcio Lassiter, Von Pessumal, and even Arwind Santos, who is making a little below two three-pointers each game. With the spacing that these shooters provide, Fajardo will be more confident of taking advantage of the breathing room he’ll find in the paint or kick out the ball to a wide-open teammate when he’s double-teamed.

It’s a tough call to make, but San Miguel has enough firepower to escape TNT and book a ticket to the Finals.

Advanced Stats are now available for Philippine basketball! Through Ryan Alba’s ‘Stats by Ryan’, you can now look at team and player advanced stats for the current 2021 PBA Philippine Cup (and the previous three seasons) via the Dribble Media website.

Check out this glossary for a list of the basketball advanced stats terminologies.

You can also contact Ryan via his Twitter handle (@_alba__).

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