Despite being undermanned as they missed the services of PJ Simon (back spasms) and Yousef Taha (serving his 2-game suspension for a pre-season misbehavior), the Purefoods Star Hotshots (1-0) started their Commissioner’s Cup campaign with a big win against the Globalport Batangpier (1-1).
It was an electrifying game at the Cuneta Astrodome as Purefoods’ fans were very excited to see the Hotshots back in action after an early (and unusual) exit last conference. And the Hotshots did not disappoint. Led by the shortest import this conference in Marqus Blakely, Purefoods made it hard for Globalport to steal a win from them. Unlike their previous meetings, Purefoods didn’t let Globalport take a big lead against them early in the game. They slugged it out in the early moments of the game and eventually found their rhythm in the 2nd half to take control of the game, 83-70. Coach Tim Cone even had the luxury of sending in seldom-used players in Lester Alvarez, Don Allado, and Jerwin Gaco (much to the delight of the Gaconatics in attendance at the Cuneta Astrodome!) in the final moments of the game.
Story of the Game: Still “Mr. Everything” – Marqus Blakely
Let’s talk more about the man of the moment and the best player of this game, Marqus Blakely. Coming in only as a temporary/stand-in import for NBA-veteran Daniel Orton, Blakely proved that he can compete with the bigger and taller imports this conference in his match-up against Globalport’s CJ Leslie. He was his same-old self as he finished with monster numbers of 26 points (11/19 shooting), 19 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals and 7 BLOCKS! But aside from these numbers, it was Blakely’s hustle and energy that propelled Purefoods to victory. Yes, CJ Leslie may be taller than Marqus but it was obvious who had more bounce in his step in this game.
Blakely’s familiarity with Coach Tim Cone’s system was on display in this game. His offensive and defensive awareness in this game were off the charts. His chemistry with his local teammates made the game easier for the Hotshots as the locals already knew what Marqus can do for them.
If Blakely continues this stellar showing, Purefoods’ management would probably have to re-think replacing him with Daniel Orton. But if I’m Purefoods, it’s a problem I wouldn’t mind having.
As I’ve said in my pre-game primer, Purefoods will be alright if they took care of four things: defense, rebounding, ball movement, and keep Globalport within striking distance. And they were alright in this game.
Purefoods’ defense forced Globalport into a lot of isolation plays either from Terrence Romeo, CJ Leslie, or at times, Stanley Pringle. This resulted into more turnovers for the Batang Pier. It was an inside-outside defensive wall the Hotshots put up as they also tallied more blocks (9-6) with Mr. Everything leading the block party with 7.
In terms of rebounding, it wasn’t close at all. Not at all. Purefoods dominated the battle of the boards by almost 20 rebounds. It was a team effort for the Hotshots as Joe Devance also grabbed 11 rebounds and Mark Barroca chipped in 8 rebounds as well.
Also, their ball movement was fantastic. As a team, they dished out 17 assists with 8 players registering at least 5 points in this game. When Purefoods share the ball and stay away from isolation plays, usually it translates into a win like this one.
- With PJ Simon sidelined, Alex Mallari got more playing time and he did not disappoint playing the point. Although there were errors here and there, Mallari finished with 10 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, and a steal. However, he’s got to improve his shooting as he only shot 4 of 13 from the field (31%).
- James Yap came out flat in this one. He missed approximately his first 6 to 7 shots of the game before scoring on free throws to finish the game with a woeful 23% shooting from the field (3/13). Maybe it was just an off night for him but he’s got to get his game going early this conference with his partner still unable to play in PJ Simon.
- Aside from the game itself, another thing of beauty was the revised jerseys of the Hotshots. It was a darker shade of blue and they removed the yellow pattern that looked like a stain in their jerseys last conference. It was a simpler look and it was better. Their retro jersey (they wore in the previous Manila Clasico) was still the best one for me, but this was already a big upgrade from the Hotshots’ “ugly” jerseys last conference.
Purefoods faces its first real test this conference (no offense to Globalport, just keeping it real) against the new “NSD” (sorry Ginebra fans! Haha) team of the PBA in the Alaska Aces. It would be interesting to see that match-up between two of the best defensive teams in the league. And one more thing, who wouldn’t want to see an Abueva vs. Blakley match-up? That would be fireworks for sure and I can’t wait for that.
Featured Image by Paul Ryan Tan, Slam Online; Mon Rubio, The Shaded Lane. Edited by MI:NI for HumbleBola.