It was another close game for the Hotshots and their failure to make the plays not only in the endgame but also all throughout the game led to their collapse. With STAR down by two with a few ticks left in the clock (after forcing a defensive stop), Coach Tim Cone set up a play for them to force the game into OT. However, the play ended up with Marqus Blakely hoisting up a triple that just grazed the rim. Game over. Hotshots lose the game.
It was probably one of the most important plays they failed to execute but there’s another one that I would say was the biggest difference maker in this game. With the clock winding down in the 2nd quarter, the Hotshots were already looking ahead to halftime – to rest and map out their strategy to close this one out. They didn’t defend anymore and just looked at Andre Emmett‘s last-second half-court heave – thinking no way this guy would hit the shot. But the shot went in, much to the delight of the Bolts’ fans in attendance. And it proved to be the most crucial play of the night as the Hotshots lost by only 2 points.
When the game was over, the look on Coach Tim Cone’s face said it all. Obviously, he was disappointed with their effort. For the past two games, they didn’t look like the team that won the Grand Slam a few conferences ago. He didn’t even felt the need to talk to his boys right after the game, as he headed straight home after yet another loss.
It also didn’t help that it was one of Marqus Blakely’s off games. He struggled against Meralco’s defense in this game. Although he was able to give his team 20 points, he only had 8 rebounds, only 5 assists, with 10 turnovers – almost 60% of STAR’s total turnovers. He was really outplayed on the other end by Meralco’s Andre Emmett who finished with 37 points, 15 rebounds, 6 assists, and 5 steals on only 3 turnovers.
But there’s more to this loss other than Blakely getting outplayed by Emmett. Let’s take a look at the numbers from this game
Game Breakdown: By the Numbers
|REBS||ASTS||STLS||BLKS||TOs||2ND CH PTS||PTS OFF TO|
A glaring stat in this game the rebounding differential. Coming into this match, STAR was one of the better rebounding teams in the league with a TREB% of 47.6% (3rd). However, they weren’t able to take advantage of their size against a smaller Meralco side as they were outrebounded, 45-36. Blakley, their best rebounder on the team was only able to grab 8 rebounds which is quite unusual. Also, Marc Pingris had only 2 boards. Their best local rebounder in this game was actually the smallest hotshot in Justin Melton with 7 rebounds. These numbers back up my observation of the seemingly lack of activity of the Hotshots (at least for this game).
As a matter of fact, in terms of points in the paint, the Bolts were able to go toe-to-toe with the bigger and taller Hotshots. STAR only led in this category by 4 points, 44-40. Cliff Hodge, Sean Anthony, and even Danny Ildefenso outplayed their STAR counterparts in terms of inside scoring. Most of these inside points came via offensive rebounds that the Bolts also dominated (which isn’t a suprise anymore), 16-7. Giving an opponent a lot more chances to score is a big no-no in basketball. It was disappointing to see STAR give Meralco as much as 4 tries in one possession. If they could’ve just had more effort in getting those rebounds, loose balls, and 50-50 balls, this game might have ended up being a win for them.
Turnovers also didn’t help their cause – been the case for the past 2 games. After 22 turnovers in their previous outing, they tallied 17 errors in this game against only 14 for the Bolts. It’s really an eyesore seeing a team that’s been known for their crisp execution turn the ball so many times in one game. Something’s wrong with their execution for the past few games. Parang hindi nagkakaamuyan. They can’t blame unfamiliarity here as there aren’t any player movement (so far) and this is already Marqus Blakely’s 5th tour of duty for the team. And it’s not even fatigue as they’ve already had two early vacations for two consecutive conferences. So, what is it? Ano ba talaga problema ng team na ‘to?
But, I’m not saying that they should push the panic button already. During their championship run, they were known to be slow starters: absorbing one loss after another but able to turn it up as the eliminations come to a close. Maybe this is just one of their slow starts as a team. Maybe this could wake them up and ignite that fire and desire once more. But they should act quickly as it won’t get easier (schedule and opponents) for them from here on out.
1. During the crucial moments of the game, there was no James Yap or a PJ Simon for them. Is this Coach Tim Cone sending a message for his two superstars? They only finished a combined 12 points (5 of 14) in this game. It was a struggle for STAR’s Batman and Robin just like in their previous games. Just take a look at their shot chart against NLEX and GBP:
2. On the other hand, Alex Mallari and Justin Melton has been playing well for STAR. In this game, Mallari was able to contribute 13 points, 2 rebounds, 6 assists, and 2 steals while Melton got 7 points, 7 rebounds, and 2 assists. Both of them did it off the bench but unfortunately, it didn’t result into a win for them. Can they translate their performances into a win in their up and coming games? Maybe yes, maybe no. But I’m pretty sure that if they continue to play like this and STAR’s “Big 3” finally wakes up from their deep slumber, the Hotshots can be a dangerous team once again. The only question left right now is when – When will the “Big 3” finally wake up?
Featured Image Credit: Zeke Alonzo, Tie Breaker Times (Edited by: MI.NI Graphics and Design)