Today, the Talk ‘n Text Tropang Texters look to get their second win of the season against the hyped team of Globalport and their handsome new quartet of Sol Mercado, Willie Miller, Gary David and Japeth Aguilar (or more fondly called as MMDA). Both teams are coming of victories — with Talk ‘n Text winning a close one against Air21 and Globalport winning by 9 against the struggling Ginebra San Miguel.
The most interesting thing about this matchup is the meetup between Japeth Aguilar and his former coach, Norman Black, and his former team (from which he asked to be traded). Japeth Aguilar was the 1st overall pick by the then Burger King Whoppers back in the 2009 PBA draft. However, after a bold declaration that he wanted to play for Smart Gilas — Philippines’ national team — he was traded soon after (after playing a couple of games for Burger King) to Talk ‘n Text, who would then allow him to play for the national team.
Japeth’s basketball career has been a whirlwind, to say the least. Between Ateneo, Western Kentucky, Burger Kings, Smart Gilas, NBA D-League and now Globalport, he’s been wildly inconsistent in most of his stops. That still holds some ground this season, as he followed a 23 point efficient performance with a 8 point stinker. Here’s to hoping he’ll have another bad game.
What are the keys to the game?
1.) Stop Mercado and David –Mercado and David are on a tear this conference. Not needing to score as much with Globalport, Sol Mercado has finally shown what he’s truly capable of when given the chance to play with more talented teammates. The result? Total domination as a distributor. Sol Mercado is assisting on 67.6% of his team’s total baskets while he’s on the floor. So despite having horrible shooting percentages (TS% of just 51.7%), his offensive rating is +12 — a testament to his passing. Currently, GBP ranks as the 2nd best offensive team in the league. It is imperative that TNT prevent Sol from dominating the game with his passing and scoring. How can TNT do this? Hard hedges on pick-and-roll will help. So will traps on high pick-and-rolls. But TNT must be prepared for the extra pass — especially if the extra pass is going to Gary David. David has been the same player for quite some time now — an efficient, high volume scorer. If there’s one thing Gary David can do, it’s put points on the table. With Sol Mercado attracting the defense up top and both Aguilar and Williams sucking defenses into the paint, Gary David has all the space he needs to operate. This season? His offensive rating is at a +16 (from league average). That’s while using a quarter (25%) of the team’s possessions while he’s on the floor. TNT will have their hands full with these two guys.
2.) Turnovers – Globalport ranks as the 2nd best team at taking care of the ball — turning the ball over on just 12.5% of their scoring possessions. On the other side, Talk ‘n Text ranks as the top team at forcing turnovers — forcing opponents to cough the ball up on 20% of their scoring possessions. TNT doesn’t get a lot of steals — they’re actually one of the worst steal generating teams in the league. What they do is play fundamental defense that forces a lot of shot clock violations, errant passes and errors. They pressure you and they pressure you hard. Whoever wins this battle, will gain a huge advantage over the other team.
3.) Jayson Castro – paired with TNTs ability to prevent Sol Mercado is Jayson Castro’s production — one of the biggest reasons why TNT is struggling offensively. Castro’s production has not been up to his usual standard of excellence. Most of his numbers are down — TS%, TOV% (numbers are not down but they are worse since they went up. Get it?), Ast%. Can Jayson Castro finally break out of his slump and carry TNT to their second win? I hope so. TNT can only go so far with Castro struggling.
I’m queasy about predicting a win — I still don’t feel confident that TNT is locked and loaded. I will predict a win but the margin of victory will be slim. Expect a fast paced, high octane game from both these squads.