San Miguel's Arizona Reid shows why he is the best import
MANILA, Philippines – Arizona Reid forced his hands into fists, roared his head up and down so ferociously that his dreadlocks seemed like they were going to tear off, screamed loud enough for the bowels of the Smart Araneta Coliseum to hear his voice, and did it again.
It was the perfect exclamation point to a classic performance.
For 48 minutes, Reid broke the Alaska Aces apart cerebrally in Game 2 of the PBA Governors’ Cup Finals. His shot was pure. He was undeniable in the post. His passes were brilliant. His voice barking orders loud and clear to keep teammates focused at the task at hand.
Unlike Game 1, Alaska came ready for war in the second game of what could become an epic finals. If the Aces looked lackadaisical on Friday, they came out for blood on Sunday.
They fought, scrapped, and clawed on defense, making it the type of physical game that draws to their favor. June Mar Fajardo hit the deck over and over again, the toll of Alaska’s physicality taking effect on his 6-foot-11 frame by the fourth quarter. Calvin Abueva was hitting 3-pointers despite dealing with an injured thumb. Sonny Thoss was pulling moves straight from the arsenal of Hakeem Olajuwon. Chris Banchero was fearless attacking the lane.
Alaska was up by 9 in the fourth while in the middle of one of their trademark runs that have forced so many opponents this PBA season into submission. For moments, it looked like San Miguel would fall into the same dark hole. Aces fans looked boisterous, probably expecting to leave The Big Dome celebrating a 1-1 tie.
Only Reid would have none of it, and soon enough his teammates followed suit. Fajardo hit clutch free throws - two of which paved the way for Reid’s emotional outburst once victory was sealed.
Marcio Lassiter looked like a younger, more athletic version of Dondon Hontiveros, cementing himself as the best shooter in the PBA today and someone who should be a lock for the Gilas Pilipinas national team. Alex Cabagnot was making all the right decisions: taking and nailing 3-pointers when left open and delivering passes right on the money to open teammates
And when it was winning time, San Miguel was at their best, scoring 25 points in the game’s final 7 minutes. During that stretch, Reid was responsible for 13 points - each one crucial in a victory that puts Alaska in a make-or-break situation for Game 3.
Two hours before the final buzzer rang and the scoreboard read an 8-point victory for the Beermen, Reid was on the baseline looking on as Alaska import Romeo Travis carried the Governors’ Cup Best Import of the Conference award above his head.
Does Travis deserve the honor? Absolutely.
But does he deserve it more than Reid? No.
Entering Sunday’s game, Travis was averaging 23.4 points, 12.5 rebounds, and 3.7 assists a contest this conference. Alaska was a total 12-4. The numbers prove he’s worthy of being named Best Import, and his unselfish play personifies the Aces’ mantra of “We Not Me.” He's undeniably an important part in Alaska’s collective attack - maybe the most important.
But what separates Reid - 28.4 points, 10.1 rebounds, 5.6 assists a game this conference - from his chief rival for the award can be classified to two aspects:
First, he makes a great San Miguel team essentially invincible when at the top of his game.
And second, when the lights are brightest, and it’s time for the stars to shine most, he’s shown up better than anyone.
Game 2 was the perfect example.
While Travis had another forgettable outing: 23 points on 7-of-22 shooting and 11 rebounds, Reid was all over the floor, finishing with 37 points on 50% shooting, 4 3-pointers, 7 assists, and 5 steals.
When the game was getting out of hand with Alaska on top 87-78 as 7:07 remained on the clock, San Miguel desperately needed a basket and Reid delivered with a floater in the paint.
With under 3 minutes to go, Reid gave up a shot at a 3-pointer in order for Alex Cabagnot to get a better look from the corner, which he subsequently drilled to cut the Aces’ lead to 93-90.
Later on after Travis missed a shot that could have given Alaska a 4-point breathing room, Reid cut hard to the rim, drew the contact from a Sonny Thoss bump, and hit a basket to the tie the game at 95.
A few possessions later, Reid faced a double team in the paint and threw an off-balanced pass right at the pocket of an open Lassiter from the corner. The result was predictable the moment the ball left his hands from long range.
After Travis missed another 3-ball with 32 seconds to go, Reid trooped to the free throw line the next two possessions and converted 3 out of 4 charities to seal the win and a 2-0 lead.
“Congratulations to Travis. It’s tough, real tough,” Reid said after the game about losing the Best Import award.
“I don’t understand it, but he deserved it. It is what it is.”
But on Sunday night, Reid clearly looked like the better import. From the opening buzzer until the final horn.
And his teammates - who also celebrated in rapture as he called out to the heavens of the Smart-Araneta Coliseum - believe it too.
“In my heart and the whole team, we know he’s the best import,” Lassiter said post-game. “We feel like he is and he’s shown to us and we wouldn’t be here without him.”
Outside of the numbers and unforgettable performances he’s put on this conference, Reid’s mission has remained the same these past few months: to finally claim that title he has now coveted for so long.
“I can taste it. I can’t sleep because I want to win so bad. I can’t sleep. I gotta take sleep medicine, man. I can’t sleep,” Reid said in an interview with Rappler before the start of the Governors' Cup.
“I’m hungry. That’s the only thing I don’t have in this country - a championship. I’ve been so close. So close.”
He has, making it twice in the semifinals in his first two stints with Rain or Shine and a finals appearance last year. This time, he has his best supporting cast ever, led by the best local player in the PBA in Fajardo. There’s no denying the Beermen’s depth has allowed Reid to operate easier, but it would be unwise to assume they would easily be as dominant with someone else in his place.
“Before the game, we [knew] that whether he wins it (Best Import) or not, what is important for him is to win a championship,” said Leo Austria.
His overall talent is the perfect complement to these Beermen. His experience has been beyond vital. His ability to perform in the clutch is unrivalled among this conference’s imports.
“If I win a championship, I have it all. I want this bad. I think about this all day long. I think about just winning that championship. I know if I win it, I’ll be crying like a baby. I want this bad,” said Reid.
Reid has also said that he will retire from the PBA (unless requested by San Miguel ownership to do otherwise) if the Beermen win the Governors’ Cup title. Guaranteed, the Aces will not go down without a fight, seeing as there aren't not enough haymakers that can be thrown their way to make them cave in. Not in Game 2, and certainly not over the next few days with elimination knocking on their front doors.
But here’s what was clear on Sunday: Arizona Reid is the best import there is in the PBA today. And because of that, he’s now halfway done towards riding into the sunset of his retirement.