In the third edition of the Manila Clasico this season, the STAR Hotshots (3-4) finally found a way to defeat their archrivals, the Barangay Ginebra San Miguel (3-5), 89-82. Back in the Philippine Cup, they were annihilated, 89-66 with 5 players from Ginebra scoring in double figures. In the Commisioner’s Cup, in the first game of Denzel Bowles, they were smothered by the gigantic duo of Mike Dunigan and Greg Slaughter, 96-87. It was a sweet victory for the Hotshots as they struggled against Ginebra all-season long. Maybe Marqus Blakely was the lucky charm for the team as he improved to 6-0 whenever he plays against Ginebra (Fidel Mangonon, 2015).
But it wasn’t an easy game for the Hotshots as they faced a confident Ginebra squad coming off a huge victory against the Batang Pier. Also, they had Orlando Johnson on their side, the top scorer of the conference so far. STAR knew that in order for them to win this game, they must be able to execute the triangle well and be disciplined in terms of defense; and that’s what they did for the first quarter of the game as they raced to a 16-point 1st quarter lead and held Ginebra to only 9 points (STAR’s best quarter in the conference so far).
However, Ginebra showed everybody that their #NSD (Never Say Die) spirit is still there and trimmed the deficit to only 8 points entering halftime. Come the early 3rd quarter, the Hotshots took Ginebra’s biggest shots. Sol Mercado and Japeth Aguilar led the way for Ginebra but Joe Devance and Mark Barroca were able to keep STAR within striking distance. It was a back and forth affair highlighted by an exchange of dunks – Japeth Aguilar had a two-handed follow-up slam but just seconds after that, Rafi Reavis posterized him with a one-handed throwdown! (yes, this game was really intense!)
Fortunately for the Hotshots, they were able to recover in the 4th quarter and made the key plays during the final minutes of the game as they were able to hold on the victory – completing their first back-to-back wins this conference.
Game Breakdown: By the Numbers
The Hotshots were able to build the early lead because they were able to get good looks from the triangle. They shot better than Ginebra in this game as a result of that. However, in some parts of the ball game especially in the late 2nd quarter and early 3rd quarter, they weren’t able to run the triangle that resulted into isolation plays from the post-guys that usually anchors the triangle. Marqus Blakely had some success as he was able to fish for some fouls but for the others, this resulted into something ugly for the Hotshots.
They were also fortunate to have won the game despite their 23 turnovers compared to Ginebra’s 14. They’re still the league-leader in terms of turnovers but they were lucky their defense was able to save them on the other end of the floor – Ginebra was only able to score 14 points off the Hotshots’ 23 errors.
In terms of rebounding, STAR was able to neutralize Ginebra’s height and heft (Hello Dorian!) advantage. In fact, they were able to win the rebounding battle, 51-45. The Hotshots were led by Blakely who collared 19 rebounds to match his point total. JDV was able to add 8 and Alex Mallari and Mark Barroca had 5 rebounds a piece for them. Greg Slaughter was only able to grab 5 rebounds for Ginebra in 22 minutes of action.
A critical factor in this win by the Hotshots is their aggressiveness as evidenced by the number of trips they had a t the charity stripe. As a team, they were able to go to the line 30 times. But then again, their free throw shooting was questionable as they only managed to convert 56.7% of it. Luck played a factor once more as Ginebra also suffered a miserable night from the free throw line converting only 15 of 25 shots (60%). Had Ginebra made their free throws, it would’ve been a totally different ball game.
1. The STAR Hotshots were able to survive a sub-par game from the Big 3 once again. They were able to do this because the other Hotshots stepped up. As usual, Marqus Blakely had his numbers and produced a double-double but it has been proven time and time again, although he’s “Mr. Everything”, that he can’t do it alone. Like what I said in my pre-game primer, there must be at least some local support provided for them to win this game – Without the Big 3, JDV, Mark Barroca, and Alex Mallari saved the day for STAR.
2. Again, it got me curious that Justin Melton and Allein Maliksi wasn’t able to play in this game. Are they nursing some injury of some sort? I don’t really know. Hopefully, they will get some minutes in their next game against Rain or Shine – they will need every player available to play in this game as it will be a fast-paced ball-game if Rain or Shine controls the game. Who knows, it might be their turn to have a solid game and deliver STAR’s third win in a row.
Featured Image Credit: PBA Images & Jerome Ascano, SPIN.PH (Edited by: MI.NI Graphics and Design)