The Meralco Bolts‘ first game was supposed to be against a team that would be integrating new pieces and a new system in Barangay Ginebra San Miguel. Instead, due to unfortunate circumstances, that game has been rescheduled and they will now be opening their new season against defending Philippine Cup Champions, San Miguel Beermen.
Talk about a change of pace.
Of course it would be the San Miguel Beermen, the team that knocked the Bolts out of the 2015 Governors’ Cup. The last time these two played in the Philippine Cup, Ronald Pascual and Sol Mercado played 31 and 27 minutes respectively, Marcio Lassiter registered a DNP, and coach Leo Austria was still a rookie coach without a title on his belt.
Now things are different. The Beermen are possibly even more dangerous than last season.
But then again, so are the Bolts. As mentioned in the season preview, they have added a couple of intriguing pieces to the puzzle. How those pieces will fit will be put to the test.
One thing that the Bolts will have in their advantage is that the Beermen have already played one game against GlobalPort Batang Pier, so coach Norman Black will have had time to do his homework.
Points of Emphasis
The Beermen offense is loaded. I know it’s just a one-game sample, but the Beermen’s 102.0 offensive rating would have been second highest in last season’s Philippine Cup. June Mar Fajardo is still pretty much unstoppable and the Beermen can get one or two of their shooters hot at any given time.
The bright side for the Bolts is that they potentially have the personnel to cover that issue. With a solid rotation of strong inside players, coach Norman might be able to find away to rotate them around to beat up on Fajardo. Think of a party of gamers trying to take down taking down a big boss.
With Jared Dillinger and Chris Newsome, they will also have at least two players who should be able to stay true to the Beermen shooters.
If anything can be taken from the Beermen’s win over GlobalPort, it’s that they gave up a lot of rebounds. Rico Maierhofer (13.7 TRB% last season) and Doug Kramer (12.4 TRB% last season) are solid rebounders, if not spectacular, but the Beermen made it look too easy for them at times. With their bruising frontcourt, I do expect the Bolts to have some sort of advantage on the boards even with Fajardo on the opposite end.
From there, it’s pretty much anyone’s guess on what will happen. We don’t know how the Bolts will look yet with the returning Jimmy Alapag running the point until rookie Baser Amer can join. That point guard spot will dictate a lot of how the Bolts will be playing. They could give Dillinger the ball-handling duties as they did for some moments last season, but that would probably not be ideal.
Rabeh Al-Hussaini is still going to be the Bolts’ biggest X-factor until he takes the court because I obviously still don’t know what he is going to bring to the table.
He could either be a huge damage dealer to Fajardo or he could just be a dud.
On a team with plenty of uncertainties, Al-Hussaini is probably the biggest uncertainty of them all.
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