Basketball and chess share a lot of interesting things:
- Both are sports played better on wood but people have found ways to replicate them. Chess has been replicated by substituting pieces with different tansans (bottle caps) and metals drawn with charcoal or papers drawn with ballpens as the board. Basketball can be played with any type of ball (soccer ball? volley ball? TENNIS ball?) and a basket (a bayong that has a hole at the bottom? A large can with a hole at the bottom? I’ve even played on a court where the basket was a plywood sawed with a hole).
- Both are sports that require a lot of pieces that must be used as a team. For chess, there are rooks and pawns, queens and bishops. For basketball, there are shooters, defenders, rebounders and cheer leaders.
- Both are sports that require a lot of adjustments.
Yes, basketball, like chess, is a battle of adjustments. When one team makes a move, the other counters. It’s simple yet complicated. Coach Bo’s done a marvelous job at executing the first few moves of Ateneo but they’ve struggled a lot with adjusting to the other teams’ counters. I’ll discuss more later.
Individual Offensive Rating
Keys to the Game
Clearly, this was not the case. The battle was a lot closer in the first half (5.9% offensive rebounding rate vs 27.3%) but overall, the game was won and lost on the boards. Again, Ateneo was eaten alive on the boards. I asked them to just focus on one side (and one side alone) – either we attack the offensive glass or we prevent the other team from doing so. Clearly, we didn’t. Not only did we do a bad job on the offensive glass, we allowed La Salle to excel at it. A clear and obvious “X” mark on this.
Thomas Torres did a really good job taking care of the ball last Sunday, turning the ball over on just 7.8% of the possessions he used. But it was fine because Jeron Teng was lucky to oblige (he turned the ball over on 22.9% of his possessions used). Ateneo scored on a lot of his turnovers. Teng is a big reason why Ateneo had 24 points off turnovers. That’s huge.
Buenafe didn’t play well. He only produced 71.7 points per 100-possession and assisted on just 18.7% of his teammates’ field goals. He was throwing a lot of high risk passes out there (cross court passes, in traffic passes, passes to Golla) that forced him to a horrible turnover rate of 22.3%. If it weren’t for Newsome’s FANTASTIC game (151.8 points produced per 100-possession), this would have surely been a blow out.
The game was closer than I expected, despite us hitting on just one of my “Keys to the Game”. That’s a source of optimism, but more than others, I’m inspired by a lot of things. Which are:
Game Notes and Other Observations
1. Ateneo was running the offense BEAUTIFULLY in the first half. I’ve mentioned their Hawk sets here and their roll/pop combo here. Today, they added a weapon that I’ve long wanted to see – a Newsome/Buenafe action. Newsome and Buenafe are Ateneo’s best offensive creators behind Kiefer Ravena. Due to the lack of scoring threats, both players have a hard time creating on their own except on postups. Both players aren’t really conditioned to play a lot in the post, so that would have tired them way faster than we wanted to (especially considering the fact that Newsome is also one of our most versatile defenders). So the coaching staff helped them in their attack.
The play is simple: two players on each corner, one player lurking in the baseline, Newsome located at the elbow of the 3PT line opposite where the baseline lurker is situated and Ryan Buenafe located at the top of the key. The action starts with Buenafe getting a pass from Newsome. Afterwards, Newsome cuts across Buenafe (effectively using him as a screen, despite him having possession of the ball). From there, both players worked off each other – when Newsome’s defender got lost in the shuffle, Buenafe would hand off the ball to Newsome, who is now matched with a slower big man. That’s where Newsome took advantage and attacked off the dribble. One simple hesitation and a crossover later, Newsome is at the rim either finishing the shot or going to the line. Simple but effective. If Buenafe’s man reacts to the Newsome cut, Buenafe just attacks the sliver of space that is created out of the confusion.
2. Ateneo’s defensive system was also SPOT ON (at least for the first half. AGAIN). Whoever guarded Thomas Torres was clearly asked to go under the screen. That rendered any action in La Salle’s set involving Thomas Torres getting open via a screen as moot. You could see this a lot during the first half: La Salle would run two screeners for Torres (that’s usually enough to get you open) only to find that his defender was still there waiting for him, no switching, no open lane.
3. Similarly, Ateneo defenders were obviously tagged to not ONLY go under on Teng ball screens but also to shade him right (and force him to go left). That was an incredible strategy that worked wonders for Ateneo. That worked as well for Vosotros. Big reason why Ateneo was up big in the first half – our defensive strategy was great.
4. Luigi De La Paz might have hit two big shots two stave of Ateneo’s bid to force an overtime (with a left corner three and a pullup jumper on the elbow of the free throw line) -but he wasn’t La Salle’s hero. That honor goes to Arnold Van Opstal and his pink shoes and to La Salle’s coaching staff. Arnold Van Opstal not only manhandled our bigs into foul trouble, he also dominated the pick and roll battle (with the help of the La Salle coaching staff) and the offensive glass. That’s a big reason why we lost.
Coach Juno Sauler and company cleaned things up a bit.
- Instead of attacking the post through Torres/AVO, they decided to use Teng/Perkins/Van Opstal as pick setters and used Vosotros as the primary ballhandler position instead of receiving it on the move. They used him in a lot of side pick-and-roll actions.
- To improve the spacing, Coach Juno Sauler inserted De La Paz into the starting five for the second half. Not that he was a deadeye shooter or anything (the guy shot 3 of 16 from downtown over Season 75 and the FilOil tourney). But he was a better shooter from the outside than Norbert Torres (that’s not really a compliment).
- With the “improved” spacing (Ateneo was forced to respect four guys all the way out on the perimeter), La Salle was able to play a lot of 2-4/2-5 sets using Vosotros on 4-out sets.
5. A lot of La Salle’s baskets came from broken plays (not really movements that looked like sets). Most of them came from the offensive glass (Vosotros layup, Perkins, Van Opstal). The rebounding battle in the first half? 11.1% for Ateneo, 30.4% for La Salle. The rebounding battle in the second half? 15.8% for Ateneo, 45% (!) for La Salle.
6. I’d be a fool not to comment Newsome and Pessumal’s games – both played really well. Newsome was just a bulldozer out there – continuously bullying his way for a basket. Meanwhile, Pessumal was playing well off other players. Defensively though, he struggled a lot in the second half as he kept losing track of (what I think are) his assignments. Big reason (along with Coach Juno Sauler’s adjustments) why Vosotros found a way to become more efficient in the second half (120.9 points per 100).
In the end, I predicted this loss. I predicted that Ateneo would be eaten alive in the boards. I was almost sure that Buenafe would have a bad game (and he did). I predicted that Ateneo must win the turnover battle in order for them to get easy baskets (and get the rhythm of our players going). That didn’t happen.
And yet, through it all, Ateneo was able to keep the game close until the De La Paz back-breaking three. They were able to weather a La Salle storm. We were washed away sure, but we didn’t drown. We fought hard. And that’s something we – as the community of supporters known to them as their Sixth Man – should be proud of. One Big Fight, right?
The good thing is that we’ve fought two of the teams I’m really afraid of (NU and DLSU). The remaining four games (Adamson, UE, UP then UST) are more winnable than NU and DLSU (the FEU game was winnable in my eyes hence why I felt awful after that game). All four teams are weak to average rebounders.
With Adamson, you only have to worry about Sewa (Brondial isn’t really a strong rebounder) and offensively, it’s all about Jericho Cruz. With UE, it’s about Mammie and Sumang (LET SUMIDO FIRE AWAY!). And then there’s UP. And then UST – the one team that’s a threat – has Abdul, Mariano and Ferrer. All three are strong rebounders but Mariano and Ferrer aren’t really the “bulky” type rebounders.
We can still get a good record out of the first round.
I won’t read too much into Coach Bo’s “I don’t believe in adjustments” quote unless it becomes an issue for the rest of the first round.