So the title kind of gives the results, huh?
The title does have an underlying tone into it – this was a game that the Blue Eagles could have won. Keyword: COULD.
Compared to last time, the game started differently. This time Ateneo came out scorching hot. What I loved about them this time around was that they weren’t lost like last time. Clearly, the coaching staff prepared for this game differently from their first one – they knew Kiefer was not going to play. They ran the same Hawk sets that they were running for Von before (two staggered screens on the right side), only this time they added wrinkles to the offense. They added wrinkles of “screen the screener” sets, side pick-and-rolls, down screens for postups. They even added some elements of Princeton into their offense with their top of the key dribble handoffs (something that the Arenas-led Wizards ran a lot). Of course, not everything was great. Some sets devolved (for better or for worse) into a Ryan-Buenafe left block postup or a Newsome/Juami isolation or sometimes even a Golla/Erram postup (LOL).
Couple that with their stingy perimeter defense – one that forced FEU into taking a lot of contested triples and midrange attempts – and it sounds like Ateneo won the game, right?
Close, but no cigar. I’ll go more into detail on my Game Notes.
As usual: Numbers, Graphs and Keys to the Game.
Individual Offensive Rating
Keys to the Game
Pressure the Perimeter
I said FEU’s engine is ran by two players: Terrence Romeo and RR Garcia. And Ateneo did one hell of a job containing those two. They made some very good calls that worked to our favor: Newsome was Romeo’s primary defender for most of the game. Newsome is long, strong and smart. And it showed: he used his length to back off a couple of feet from Romeo, conceding the jumper, he bodied him just enough to make him feel uncomfortable on most of his drives. He didn’t allow Romeo to get his teammates involved and in the process, made Romeo play a bad game. None of his offensive numbers are good: ORTG of 80.4 (EWW) on a usage rate of 41.3% (WHAT THE), true shooting percentage of 43.8% (*VOMITS*), assist rate of 19.9% with a turnover rate of 17.3% (*laughs*).
RR Garcia, didn’t fare any better being guarded by Von Pessumal and Nico Elorde – he only produced 71.4 points per 100-possession.
Between Romeo/Garcia creating and Tolomia creating, I said I’d choose Tolomia 20 out of 10 times (an obvious exaggeration). Well, Tolomia worked well with the attention being given to his two star teammates. The guy was hitting fadeaways like MJ and was finishing acrobatic layups.
This should be a check, right? Well, read on to the next key to the game.
Into the Fence but not inside the House
The point of this key was for Ateneo to prevent FEU from taking shots both from inside and from the 3PT line.
That was easier to do compared to the other teams because FEU is a team that attacks from the outside. This means it’s easier to goad these guys into taking jumpers (as opposed to shots near the rim). They succeeded in half of it – Ateneo packed the paint hard. FEU couldn’t get a clear shot at the basket when the Ateneo defense was set. Most of their shots at the rim came either from offensive rebounds and through fastbreaks – both are instances when a defense is not set (in the case of offensive rebounds, momentarily not set).
FEU attempted just 38.6% of their attempts near the rim – below the league average (which hovers around 45%). The problem is that Ateneo wasn’t able to force a midrange jumper. Remember my first key on Romeo? It was a half check since they had a bad game but I’m not happy with Romeo and Garcia taking 17 3PT shots, some of them were in rhythm shots. Scary what could have happened if even a third of those attempts fell (compared to just 17%).
The culprit was Ateneo’s defensive philosophy. They changed their philosophy (or if you want to look at it at a worse angle, the players didn’t execute the defensive philosophy): fewer switches and more going-under-the-screen actions. The intent, I think, was to goad FEU into taking off-the-dribble midrange jumpers (coaxing them with the temptation of a wide open shot). It worked on some occasions but for the most part, because FEU’s ball screens were done high up from the 3PT line, going under meant FEU players had a clear look at a three-point shot as opposed to a long two. Forty percent (40%) of FEU’s attempts came from the 3PT line. Not a good number.
They made 25% of them – a number that would rank as below average. The problem, as I’ve stated numerous times before, is 25% from the 3PT line is still better than say, 35% from midrange, much less 25%. Twenty-five percent (25%) from the 3PT line concedes around 0.75 points per shot, 25% from midrange concedes around 0.5 points per shot. Over the course of a game, those extra points will kill you. And it did (for Ateneo).
A half check is what I gave for both the first and the second key.
PLEASE PUT RYAN BUENAFE CLOSER TO THE BASKET
AHA! The coaching staff DOES read my blog! (Kidding, of course.) Ateneo was running a lot of their sets through Buenafe, regardless if he’s the one taking the shot or not. High ball screen actions, cross screening action that gets Buenafe the ball on the left block, isolations at the top of the key. Ateneo did experiment with Buenafe in the post – and it worked wonders. FEU did not have an answer for Buenafe’s post ups. They ran quick doubles on him (coming from the FT line so as to use the baseline as a leverage point) to prevent him from dominating (and he did miss a couple of passes because of the added pressure), but by and large, I think everybody could see the potential that a Buenafe postup holds.
The problem was that it wasn’t consistent. I was happy with Ateneo’s offense up until the point where they deviated from their sets and settled for a lot of 4-out sets (with Buenafe holding the ball). It worked, for now. Buenafe hit five of his 12 3PT attempts (and I think hit two more midrange jumpers). WHOA.
That’s where my problem begins.
Game Notes and Other Observations
1. Why the hell is the coaching staff running cross screens to setup a postup for … Poy Erram? Look, it’s fine if its the first few possessions of the first quarter. Some teams run a postup on the first few possession just to gauge how the opponent will play them – what are the angles that guys take? Where are they looking? Who are they looking at? But if you run it midway through the game for a player that isn’t really a good post scorer, then there’s a problem. Unless there’s something I’m not seeing.
2. Buenafe postups look good. I especially love the down screen he gets on those Hawk (or variant of a Hawk) set. Puts him in the best position to succeed — near the rim.
3. Speaking of which, those Hawks sets are looking dandy. A Hawk set is a set that starts of the same every time. The set usually starts of like this:
Looks familiar, right? Forget the action being shown (although Ateneo did run that). That’s the initial position that all five guys are placed in. Again, this is a variant of the Hawk set (and there are a lot of variations to this, I believe).
- Ateneo’s set usually begins with #5 on the left elbow 3PT line (usually Juami).
- He then passes it to #2 located in the middle of the 3PT line (usually Buenafe) who then passes it to #1.
- #5 then goes into a screening position for #3.
- From then, the set evolves in a myriad of ways.
- A down screen (pictured here) happened maybe once or twice.
- A double staggered screen (where #3 uses the screen being set by #5 and #4).
- Sometimes they add a wrinkle here and instead of #3 flashing all the way up to the 3PT line, he u-turns around #4 and moves to the right corner (forming a letter C, with #2 moving to the left corner so as to keep the floor properly spaced). #5 (the first screener) then pops out and uses #4 as a screen again (in a sort of screen-the-screener set).
- From there, Ateneo continuously evolved the process. #5 (who has now popped up to the top of the key of the 3PT line) can get the pass and receive a second screen from #4 or sets a double ball screen for #1 (along with #4) . They added multiple wrinkles to this very basic set and their ball movement was great for most of the game.
Until FEU adjusted to this set and pressured the #3 (usually the third pass). They made the third pass (i.e. #1’s pass to multiple targets) difficult and in the process created a lot of turnovers for themselves. Romeo, in particular, feasted on this. Elorde (who was usually the third passer in this set) struggled to make that third pass and it resulted into a turnover rate of 29.1%. This is an easy-to-understand but potentially potent set if used properly. Ateneo depended on it a lot and the results were great at the start, before FEU adjusted. This is one big reason why Ateneo devolved into postups for Buenafe or isolations for Juami. Can the coaching staff continue to work on this set?
4. Ateneo had no fastbreak attempts and (obviously) no fastbreak points. Weird, I saw a couple of early shots from the team. Kudos however to Coach Nash and the FEU team for running back on defense and preventing Ateneo from getting easy points on the break.
5. In two games, Ateneo takes a whopping 45.1% of their attempts from behind the 3PT line. I would be happy if only they were attempting more near the rim – where the team is taking just 32.6% of their shots (and missing a ridiculous amount of their shots there) – Kiefer will help with this, so will Buenafe (if they increase those postups). But I think we just need to accept the reality that this team will be gunning from the outside. A high risk-high reward proposition, but one that will allow us to upset teams that are more talented than us “on paper.”
6. Last point: A lot of people are saying: “WHOA! We forced an OT game against FEU even without Kiefer Ravena! Watch out!”. To them I say: “Guys, we needed Ryan Buenafe – a player who’s shot somewhere between 11~17% over his last two UAAP seasons – to hit five of his 12 3PT attempts. That’s 41.7% – 24~30% more than what he’s made in the past! Now, it is possible that he suddenly finds his stroke (a lot of his makes were from those set shots) but I’m not holding my breath. Our interior defense is weak and our pack-the-paint strategy is allowing teams to bomb from the 3PT line when our defense does collapse. It’s just two games but the signs are not good. Kiefer returning will certainly not help with our interior problems.
In the end, Ateneo had a rare chance of winning this game without Kiefer. They were almost destined to win this one before Roger Pogoy decided to take a chance at poking the ball on a Buenafe rebound and before the costly turnover near the end of the overtime period.
Next game is up against our rivals. I’m trying to delay writing the inevitable but here goes: We’re going to get E-A-T-E-N on the boards.
Here’s a picture of a Siberian Husky to loosen the tension. LOOK HOW CUTE!