Rough start for PBA titans

San Miguel Beermen

San Miguel Beermen, fresh off from pinning a record fifth straight Philippine Cup crown, bowed to the NorthPort Batang Pier by a completely unexpected margin of 33 points, 121-88, in the second game of a Wednesday double header that saw the Magnolia Hotshots, the 2018 Governors’ Cup winner, getting mangled earlier by the Alaska Aces, 103-80.

Barely a month into the ongoing 2019 PBA Commissioner’s Cup with San Miguel Beer, Barangay Ginebra and Magnolia, which finished a title sweep for San Miguel Corp. last year, not only losing one after the other but losing big as well.

SMB and Magnolia played with little fanfare in their first outing since their Game 7 showdown for the all-Filipino title last May 15.

Two days later, the defending champion Ginebra Gin Kings also followed suit on a losing streak against the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters, who broke into the win column on their third game with a runaway 104-81 victory sparked by the unheralded Rey Nambatac and former Best Import Denzel Bowles.

Nambatac, after scoring just nine points in the first two games picked by ROS as No. 7 in the 2017 rookie draft fired a career-high 30 points highlighted by seven triples in 11 attempts.

Bowles, named top import after leading B-Meg to the 2012 title in Tim Cone’s coaching debut for SMC, added 25 points and 17 rebounds in matching well with Ginebra ace and reigning Best Import Justin Brownlee, who also finished with 30.

There seems to be no easy way to the quarterfinal round this time with most of the teams boasting of key reinforcements. While experts consider the rash of upsets as temporary setbacks with all three SMC squads still expected to survive the one-round eliminations.

NBA veteran Terrence Jones is one such prized recruit and who outshone 2017 Best Import Charles Rhodes as the TNT KaTropa slapped a second humiliating loss on the Beermen, 110-97, last Saturday.

He also finished with 30 points to lead the superb three-point show by the KaTropa, who roared to a 20-point lead at 30-10 in the first quarter and left the obviously rusty Beermen scrambling to get back in the fight all game long.

Rhodes achieved 20 this time after firing 29 that went to naught against NorthPort, had promised to reprise his starring role when the Beermen won here in 2017, but obviously he can’t do it alone.

TNT moved into a tie for second, 4-1 with NorthPort behind Blackwater which improved to 5-1 after a 132-108 rout of NLEX. Alaska and Meralco were breaching their tie for fourth at 3-2 at press time with Ginebra going down to 2-2.

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