After four straight defeats, looks like the Star Hotshots needed a breath of fresh air. A new environment perhaps for them to re-focus and get back on track. They were lucky they were scheduled for an out-of-town game against the KIA Carnival in Pampanga.
Seeing them play against KIA in this game, I can say that the change of scenery had an effect on the team. It’s as if they were reignited, refueled, and recharged. Except for the early moments of the game and the last-minute effort of the Carnival (3-2), it was the Hotshots (2-4) who were in full control (a refreshing sight to see as they really struggled to take control in their past four games) as they were able to come away with a win, 89-80.
In the Star’s breakout win, it was the face of their franchise who had his own breakout performance. James Yap played his best game of the conference as he torched KIA with 23 points on a perfect shooting night (4 of 4) from downtown. He also added 7 rebounds and was perfect from the charity stripe. It’s been a while since James Yap had a game like this (before this game, he was only averaging 9.4 points per game on a 27.3 clip from the arc with a net rating of -18.3) and what a time for it to come. He started the game on fire, scoring 12 of his 23 right in the first quarter. James got it going and he proved that once again to everybody that when he’s hot, he can’t be stopped. He was able to cap off his “Big Game” performance with back-to-back hits three-point hits that pretty much sealed the game for the Hotshots.
Aside from James Yap, the ever reliable Marqus Blakely was there to foil any rally made by KIA during the game. Despite suffering (for the second-straight game) from foul trouble, Blakely still managed to chip in a double-double of 23 points and 11 rebounds. It was an all-around effort for “Mr. Everything” as he tallied 3 assists, 2 steals, and 2 blocks as well. He could’ve scored more though had he made his free-throws; those 10 misses from the line could’ve been critical if the game had been a tight affair.
Game Breakdown: By the Numbers
|TEAM||FG (%)||REBS (OREB)||ASTS||STLS||BLKS||INSIDE POINTS||TOVS|
|34/69 (49.3%)||51 (16)||14||5||7||46||17|
|31/85 (36.5%)||48 (21)||16||8||6||28||13|
One thing STAR was able to do in this game was limit the inside activity of Kia anchored on their import, Hamady N’Diaye. N’Diaye was limited to only 13 points in this game and the Hotshots were able to outscore Kia in the paint by 18 points. They were also able to go to-to-toe with one of the top rebounding teams this conference in Kia. Although N’Diaye had a block party early in the game (registering 5 blocks in the first!), the Hotshots eventually were able to match his output as a team.
In terms of ball movement, the Hotshots looked better than in their previous ball games. Although they still tallied below their conference average in terms of assists, their off the ball movement was a thing of beauty. Slowly but surely, the Hotshots are trusting the triangle once again. Hopefully, it will only take a few more games for them to be at their peak in terms of execution (by then, I guess it will result into better numbers for the team). Because right now, they are quite far from the league-leaders in terms of sharing the basketball like TNT, ALA, GIN, and ROS.
In the first half of the game, the Hotshots were able to limit the Carnival to only 34 points. That’s pretty good defense. But come the 3rd quarter, Kia was able to put up 24 points and followed it up with 22 in the 4th. It was an indication of the Hotshots’ inconsistency on the defensive end during games. In 5 games this conference, here is STAR’s averages in terms of points allowed per quarter: 1st quarter – 19.6 | 2nd quarter – 22.4 | 3rd quarter – 23.0 | 4th quarter – 25.2 . The Hotshots have to do better defensively as the game progresses and not the other way around. What good is a strong defensive start only to allow your opponent to wreak havoc at the crucial stretch of the game? I may already sound like a broken record when I say they have to play better and consistent defense but that’s what they have to do in order to beat teams that are obviously way above their level right now.
Another thing they have to really improve is taking good care of the ball. Despite the win, they mustered 17 turnovers. Combined with the offensive rebounds they have allowed, it resulted into 16 more cracks at the basket for KIA. Right now, they have to be alarmed as these numbers are simply unacceptable if they want to string a couple of wins leading into the playoffs this conference.
It can’t be said that this win was nothing as it was only against a young team like KIA. KIA’s been making progress as a team as shown by their win-loss record this conference (they have obviously been better than BWE in three conferences so far). It’s just that STAR was able to expose KIA’s weakness as a young team which is their maturity in the end-game (like that LA Revilla “Jimmy-Alapag-ish” pull-up from three and their decision of not fouling right away). In any case, this win by the Hotshots against the Carnival is a step in the right direction for the team.
1. Coach Tim Cone continued experimenting with his line-ups in this game. Hopefully, Coach will eventually find that potent line-up combination in time for the playoffs. Or is this his ploy to surprise other teams? Also, Taha was able to play a good amount of minutes in this game. However, he was still awkward out there on the court especially on the offensive end. His hustle is a plus for sure but he’s got to do better in learning the triangle in order to be more helpful to his team. Curiously enough, Justin Melton and Allein Maliksi didn’t play a single minute in this game.
2. James Yap was able to fire away 23 points in this game. But the problem with James is that he has been consistently inconsistent. I can’t even remember the last time he was on fire like this tonight. It will be interesting to see if he can follow up this performance with another big game in their next match against Ginebra.
3. This game just reminded everybody in the league how dangerous the Hotshots can be if they can get their act together. Anyone can explode at any given night to give support to Marqus Blakely. If James can’t do it again in their next game, whose turn is it to step up and lead them to victory? Will it be PJ, JDV, Ping, or Barroca?
Featured Image Credit: Paul Ryan Tan, Sports 5; Josh Albelda, ABS-CBN Sports (Edited by: MI.NI Graphics and Design)