As they say, “All good things must come to an end”. Purefoods Star Hotshot’s amazing run of four consecutive titles ended last night at the hands of the vastly improved Meralco Bolts.
It was painful. Ang sakit. Watching the Hotshots slowly getting ripped apart by the Bolts was extremely painful. People were used to seeing a deadly Purefoods team in the post-season that their game against Meralco felt surreal. What’s even more surreal is the fact that for the first time in a long while, there will be no Purefoods team in the semis.
It’s over. Purefoods’ dynasty is over. At least for now. Echoing the words of Sir Carlo Pamintuan, “Dynasties never end well. It’s often swift and brutal. Like this.”
But enough of the drama. The Bolts actually deserved to win this game against the Hotshots. They were the more aggressive team and was dominant for most part of the game (MER lead by as much as 17 points, 71-54). It was pretty obvious. Meralco was the better team tonight, earning them a ticket to the phase 2 of the quarterfinals against Alaska. Now, let’s look at the numbers.
OFF NIGHT: MISERABLE PUREFOODS’ OFFENSE
It was a miserable night for Purefoods in terms of offense. As a team, they only shot 36% (22 of 61) from the field highlighted by only 5 of 26 shots from the three-point arc. May halong malas na rin siguro but Meralco’s scrappy defense must be credited for this woeful offensive performance by Purefoods. Meralco’s defense was superb in this game, only allowing 65 points to Purefoods, their lowest scoring output this conference.
After their 28-assist performance against Barako in their last game in the eliminations, the Hotshots weren’t able to distribute the ball well in this game (only 10 assists as a team). Meralco was able to defend the triangle very well, forcing Purefoods into unassisted tough shots with the shot-clock about to go down.
The ones greatly affected by Meralco’s stifling defense were PJ Simon and Marc Pingris, finishing with only 5 points apiece. PJ Simon only shot 2 of 9 (22%) from the field and wasn’t able to get his game going the entire time. On the other hand, Marc Pingris’ offensive contributions were limited primarily because of the defense of Cliff Hodge and other bigs of Meralco, only able to convert 2 of 3 shot attempts.
All in all, only 3 players from Purefoods scored in double figures: Mark Barroca (12), James Yap (14), and Joe Devance (21).
LONE BRIGHT SPOT: JDV
Speaking of Joe Devance, he was the lone bright spot for Purefoods in this game. He finished the game with 21 points (7/7 from the 2-point region and 2/6 from the arc), 6 rebounds, and team-high 3 assists. It was quite unfortunate that JDV’s effort didn’t result into a win for Purefoods. Devance is an extremely underrated player in the PBA and this game just showed how good he can be for the Hotshots.
Another factor that led to Purefoods’ early exit this conference was bench production. The thing that was supposed to save their #DriveForFive campaign turned into a weapon that killed them.
Purefoods’ bench was outscored by Meralco’s bench, 30-13. James Sena led the charge for the shock troopers of Meralco, scoring timely baskets in a crucial stretch of the game. He finished with 11 points on a perfect 5 of 5 from the field (talk about effiency right there)! Aside from Sena, Reynel Hugnatan (7 points) was also a thorn on the side of Purefoods as well as Ryan “hefty steady” (according to Ali Peek) Buenafe.
On the side of Purefoods, only 2 players were able to contribute off the bench. Mark Barroca accounted for 12 of Hotshots’ bench points and the other point was from his “Twin Terror” partner, Justin Melton. Ian Sangalang was greatly missed in this one as he could’ve provided some stability and scoring off the bench for the Hotshots.
COACH TIM CONE’S LATE-GAME SPEECH
There was one point in the game, late in the 4th quarter, wherein Coach Tim Cone burned 2 timeouts just to bring across a message to his team. It was like a scene from the movies. Coach Tim delivers a speech to pump his boys up for one last push, then his wards would wipe out deficit and win the game in dramatic fashion. Unfortunately for Purefoods, this wasn’t the movies.
But that scene just showed how great Coach Tim Cone is (arguably the greatest Coach of all-time in the PBA). Aside from his record-breaking number of titles in the league today, he held everyone accountable and pushed them to finish the game strong, to go down like champions.
CAREER MILESTONE: JAMES YAP
As per Mr. Fidel Mangonon, PBA’s resident statistician, James Yap became the 21st player overall (20th among locals) and 2nd among the active ones to score at least 9,000 career points in the PBA. After this game against Meralco, he only trails Mark Caguioa (9,026 career points) by only 20 points. Congrats “Big Game” James!
STREAK HAS BEEN BROKEN
Entering this game, Purefoods had a 9-game winning streak in do-or-die games and Meralco has never beaten them (0-4) in a playoff series. With this win by Meralco over Purefoods, both streaks were broken as the Bolts finally defeated the Hotshots in a playoff series.
Looking Ahead: A Fresh Start for the Hotshots
It was a great run for Purefoods. 4-straight rings in the PBA isn’t a joke. And it obviously took a toll on the players’ bodies. It proved that after all, they’re still human. This loss will surely sting but it can also be a blessing in disguise for the team. This early exit will allow them to rest their banged up bodies after four consecutive trips to the finals. This early exit can also let the Coaches re-evaluate the team and prepare earlier for the next conference. A lot of things can happen in the offseason for the Hotshots but one thing is certain, they’ll come back stronger and better. In the words of Marc Pingris, “..promise namin, itong pagkakatalo na ito, eto ang magpapalakas sa amin.”
The dynasty might be over but Purefoods is just getting started. As what Semisonic would say in their song “Closing Time”, “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”
Featured Image Credit: Jerome Ascano, SPIN.ph (Edit: MI.NI)