Dragons back in team-to-beat talk after easy conquest of Beermen

Bay Area Dragons import Andrew Nicholson during a game against the San Miguel Beermen in the 2022 PBA Commissioner’s Cup at Araneta Coliseum. PBA IMAGES

Coach Brian Goorjian feels that his Bay Area Dragons took a massive step in their PBA Commissioner’s Cup campaign following a surprising romp of a San Miguel Beer that was without June Mar Fajardo.

“It’s really big for us,” Goorjian said after the Dragons got back on the winning track with a 113-87 victory on Sunday at Smart Araneta Coliseum that sort of made up for a humbling 18-point setback the previous weekend against a different powerhouse.

And after winning all nine tuneup matches and starting the midseason conference with a 4-0 record, the defeat to Barangay Ginebra and subsequent recovery of the visiting Hong Kong squad may have revived pretournament hype that the Dragons are the team to beat.

Magnolia coasted to a 109-91 win over skidding NorthPort in the nightcap to remain as the only unbeaten team at 5-0, with import Nick Rakocevic posting 26 points and 14 rebounds.

“We knew that the teams that we were playing [at the start of the conference] are not the top teams because [the top teams were] still playing. We got our first opportunity [against Ginebra], and we got whacked,” he said.

“So the adjustments in winning this one is huge for the young guys in terms of confidence and for the growth of the team,” added Goorjian.

Bay Area improved to 5-1 while San Miguel lost for the second time in three starts, Fajardo’s loss for at least the next four weeks is expected to cast a shadow in its quest to get the second jewel of the league’s 47th season.

The injury denied Fajardo a chance to be tested against the likes of Andrew Nicholson and 7-foot-5 Liu Chuanxing.

“That hurt them for sure,” said the Bay Area mentor. “He’s maybe the best player in the competition. They played off him and won a championship. One thing about San Miguel as to why they won the championship, they got tremendous depth. They’ve got backup bigs, they’re deep in the guard spots.

“So yeah, they definitely missed him. But they’ve got enough there for us to feel good about beating a team of that quality without him,” Goorjian concluded.

Even without Fajardo, the Beermen had enough talent to match up, but the Dragons had other ideas and led by a huge margin behind Nicholson, who made 25 of his 39 points in the first half.

Nicholson played his second game since the smaller Myles Powell completed the arrangement of suiting up for the first four matches, and was effective both in the paint and in the perimeter.

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