View from the enemy: Petron Blaze Boosters
This could easily be a preview of this year’s Governor’s Cup finals. Yup, I’m calling it right now.
On paper, this Petron team is INSANELY DEEP. In fact, according the SLAM PH’s PBA Rank:
The Best Team on Paper
Petron Blaze Boosters
Average score = 6.35
If only basketball was played on paper and not on the court, huh? The Petron Blaze Boosters just narrowly beat Barangay Ginebra San Miguel with the average score of the members on their team. And this is after Petron traded away a Top 30 player on the #PBARank in Jay Washington to GlobalPort for a player that is ranked #88 in Jason Deutchman.
And yet, all of those great talents have yet to pull together a championship, little alone reach the Finals in quite some time. But, maybe this conference will be different. Then again, we seem to be saying that almost every single conference.
After going 2-0 in their first two games, the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters face a tough test against a Blaze Booster team that’s coming from a win over Ginebra last Sunday. Thankfully, despite all the talent on their team, Petron still struggles with putting it all together (as evidenced by their late game collapse against Meralco in their 1st game).
How can Rain or Shine keep their record immaculate and come out with a win? Let’s check our keys to the game:
Elijah Millsap, Marcio Lassiter, Ronald Tubid, Alex Cabagnot, Chris Lutz… Petron’s talent on the perimeter just goes on and on and on. Rain or Shine definitely has the defensive talent to match-up with them in Gabe Norwood, Jireh Ibanez, Ryan Arana and Ronnie Matias. With Millsap, Lassiter and Cabagnot combining for 61 out of Petron’s 101 in their last game, Rain or Shine has to dig deep and try to shut these guys down as much as possible.
Gabe Norwood should reprise his mentality during his stint with Gilas where he was the team’s main stopper on the perimeter and try to contain Millsap. Coach Yeng can opt to put Reid on Petron’s import, but if Norwood can somehow match-up well against the Blazer reinforcement, Reid can then help anchor the Elasto Painter defense in the paint. With Millsap preferring to play outside rather than inside, having someone else rather than Reid checking him will allow Arizona to be fresh in the end game.
Put on the Breaks
Everyone knows that Rain or Shine likes to push the pace and play fast, but in this game, they have to be careful in not allowing Petron to get up and match this style of play. In their game against Ginebra, the Blaze Boosters went on two late game momentum runs which saw them wreak havoc on transition. The two primary suspects? Millsap and Cabagnot. On the open court and running at full speed with the ball, Millsap is simply unstoppable, while Cabagnot will always have the balls to launch and make fastbreak threes (3/5 from deep in their last games, two came on the break). It will be important for Rain or Shine to limit Petron’s fastbreak, open-court chances by taking care of the basketball and avoiding too many three point attempts, as being sloppy around the perimeter will surely lead to some easy steals and taking too many threes will result to long rebounds, which could easily start a Blaze Booster transition attack.
Feed it Inside
“Marami ka pang kakaining bigas” should be the motto of the Rain or Shine frontline against June Mar Fajardo. If the Elasto Painter bigs can take Fajardo out of the game early (not literally, but figuratively… pero, pwede rin?), then Rain or Shine suddenly has a huge advantage inside with only Kramer holding down the fort for them. As for the newly acquired Kramer, he exploded in their last game for 17 points and 10 rebounds, but Rain or Shine’s thicker (haha) frontline should ensure that he doesn’t repeat that type of performance.
Man this is tough, but I see Petron dealing Rain or Shine their first loss of the conference. It’ll be tough, but Coach Yeng and his crew will get their revenge in the post-season. ;)