The 2015 PBA Philippine Cup Playoffs will begin tomorrow (Thursday), but it looked like the Purefoods Star Hotshots (6-5) wanted to start the party early. They came in this game, their last game of the elimination round, with extreme focus as they tried to arrest their 2-game losing skid and enter the playoffs on a winning note. And yes, they did, outlasting the Barako Bull Energy Cola (4-7), 99-83.
Although Purefoods were already sure that they’ll have a twice-to-beat disadvantage (regardless of whether they’ll win or not), it’s clear that Coach Tim Cone wanted his boys to treat this game like it’s the playoffs already. This was because another loss would put them on a 3-game slide, a thing they didn’t want to have entering the playoffs. Although they were not near championship-form yet, you can tell that each player fielded in by Coach Tim Cone was ready. The whole team was already playoff-ready.
|Team||FG (%)||3FG (%)||FT (%)||REBS||ASTS||BENCH PTS|
|PFS||40/70 (57%)||7/14 (50%)||12/21 (57%)||43||28||34|
|BAR||37/79 (47%)||4/21 (19%)||5/13 (38%)||36||13||27|
Purefoods’ offense looked very sharp in this game. They didn’t need a lot of time to heat up as they got to a scorching start, scoring 27 first-quarter points. They finished the game shooting 57% from the field compared to the Energy Cola’s 47%. Actually, if you look at it, Barako Bull’s shooting percentage was a decent one. But allowing an opponent to light up the scoreboard with a shooting clip close to 60% simply wouldn’t cut it.
The Hotshots’ impressive field goal percentage can be attributed to their superb ball movement in this game. Purefoods ended the game with 28 assists (17 in the 1st half) compared to only 13 for Barako Bull. Justin Melton led them with 5 assists while Marc Pingris, Joe Devance, and Yousef Taha all chipped in 4 assists each as well. These assists resulted into easy baskets for the Hotshots (both inside and outside 7/14 from deep) and resulted in a more balanced scoring compared to the Energy Cola (See scoring distribution pie chart below).
In addition to their domination in offense, the Hotshots were also able to win the battle of the boards, 43-36. But if there’s one thing Purefoods need to look at after this game are their free throws. Again, just like in some of their games this conference, they missed a lot of freebies. Come playoff-time, every possession, every point would be important, reason why they should be focused in improving their shot from the foul line (Special mention goes out to Alex Mallari, 0/4 from the stripe).
WELCOME TO PUREFOODS, DADDY MICK!
In exchange for Isaac Holstein and Ronnie Matias, Purefoods reinforced their lineup for the playoffs by acquiring Mick Pennisi from Barako Bull. To tell you the truth, it was weird seeing these players swapping jerseys in this game. It was like when you trade a player in NBA 2k15 and you see him in a new uniform for the first time. Parang may mali. But that’s life in the PBA. It happens.
But Purefoods was very lucky to have landed the versatile big man from Barako Bull in Mick Pennisi. It has been 2 days since he joined the team but he moved and flowed within the system like he’s been a part of Purefoods for a long time. Pennisi finished with a solid line of 3 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 blocks in 21 minutes of action.
SAKURAGI IS BACK!
After struggling for most part of the conference, Sakuragi has finally found his form. In Purefoods’ last 2 games, he’s shown solid numbers and has been more aggressive not only in defense but on offense as well. Against Barako Bull, Pingris lead the Hotshots to victory scoring 20 points (7/9 shooting), 5 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 steals.
This is a great sign for Purefoods coming into the playoffs as Pingris is the most important player for the Hotshots. In my opinion, they can afford a struggling PJ Simon or a James Yap but not a Marc Pingris. He’s the heart and soul of the team and they can’t afford to lose a guy like Ping.
#DriveForFive: 1st Round
With this win by the Hotshots and a win by Meralco against GlobalPort yesterday, Purefoods will be facing the Meralco Bolts in the 1st round of the playoffs with a twice-to-beat disadvantage. They will have to win 3-straight do-or-die games for them to advance to the semi-finals. Purefoods has done this before. Can they do it once more to keep their #DriveForFive campaign alive? I certainly hope so.
Featured Image Credit: Sherwin Vardeleon, SportsDesk.PH (Edit: MI.NI)