It was a baptism of fire indeed.
In his first game as a head coach in the PBA, Jason Webb tasted his first defeat at the hands of one of the best coaches in the history of the PBA in Yeng Guiao. It was bittersweet as coach Jason and the STAR Hotshots were able to control the first half of play, only to falter in the end. A lot of credit must be given to coach Yeng and Rain or Shine as they were able to adjust and turn things around in the second half to snatch the win away from STAR.
It was expected that the Elasto Painters would be able to have the upper hand in this match-up because of two things. First, they have Yeng Guiao (that’s a no-brainer right there). Second, the Hotshots have a new coach and a new system where familiarity and mastery will take some time. So it was a bit surprising to see them dominate in the first half. Well, Rain or Shine missing the services of their number one player in Paul Lee (due to a knee injury) was a factor too.
The Hotshots led by 7 at the half but slowly and surely, Rain or Shine was able to trim the lead and take over the game in the 4th quarter. It wasn’t surprising as coach Yeng is well known to be a master of adjustments. When things were going south, it showed that coach Jason Webb still lacks the experience to stabilize the Hotshots and make counter-adjustments. It’s part of the learning process. But at the end of this game at least, it was the veteran side that came out on top, spoiling his debut for the STAR Hotshots.
It was a tale of two halves for the STAR Hotshots. In the first, they rode the hot hands of their main man, James Yap, who erupted for 13 points. However, come the 2nd half, Yap went cold, largely because of Rain or Shine’s defense and as a result, things did not look the same for STAR.
Taking a look at the quarter scoring, the Hotshots had a solid opening quarter on both ends. On offense, there were new things going on with most of them done to free up their guards. But on the other end of the floor, it was the same old Hotshots brand of tough defense. It was almost as if coach Tim never left as the discipline he instilled on that end was still present.
However, they were not able to sustain it as they allowed Rain or Shine to outscore them come the 2nd quarter of play. In the 2nd half, Yeng Guiao was able to fully adjust as they erupted for 56 points (punctuated by a 29-point 3rd quarter) against the Hotshots’ 40.
There was no question, Rain or Shine had this game in the bag. They shot better. Although not by much as both teams struggled to put the ball in the hoop from downtown. As I’ve said in my conference preview for the Hotshots, for their new system to be fully effective, they’ve got to knock down those three bombs. It wasn’t a great first game as they shot an atrocious 19% clip from deep.
Rain or Shine was also able to force STAR into 22 turnovers. Although it didn’t result into an advantage for them in terms of points off turnovers, the Hotshots must be wary of their tendency to turn the ball over. They can’t afford to waste away possessions like this one moving forward.
Lastly, the Elasto Painters used their size and heft to their advantage. The Elasto Painters took advantage of their Extra Rice (Belga and Quinahan)+ Rock N’ Roll (Almazan) trio (and Ponferada on the side as well) to dominate the Hotshots inside the shaded area, 58-46 (points in the paint). In terms of rebounding, the Elasto Painters also had the upper hand, 54-48. This advantage resulted into more second chance points for them. It also didn’t help that Quinahan was able to channel his inner Paul Lee to lead his squad in terms of scoring. He finished the game with 17 points (104.9 ORTG!), 8 rebounds, 2 assists, and 4 blocks in 27 minutes of action.
AFTER BIG GAME JAMES, WHO’S NEXT IN LINE?
Everyone expected a breakout game from James Yap and he showed it right away in the first half. Most plays were designed to open him up and create shots for the team. However, come the 2nd half, he was well defended by Rain or Shine and STAR’s offense went cold.
Looking at the box score, 4 other players scored in double figures for the Hotshots (Mallari and Barroca with 15 points each, Sangalang with 13, and PJ Simon with 11). This is a good sign for the Hotshots but the problem is knowing where the offense will come from when James Yap is out or struggling with his shot. That was evident in the 2nd half . Parang nangangapa pa. Yes, they still got their points but when STAR needed to score some baskets late in the 4th and James Yap went cold, hindi na nila alam saan pupunta.
Moving forward, they need to address this as they can’t rely on James Yap alone. Remember James Yap during Ryan Gregorio’s time? He needed a peak Kerby Raymundo to win a championship. Maybe Ian Sangalang/Mark Barroca can be this era’s Kerby Raymundo for the team.
ASSESSMENT OF THE NEW ADDITIONS/RETURNEES
Speaking of Ian Sangalang, it was good to see him back in action after a devastating injury that sidelined him for the whole 40th season. In his first game back, Sangalang tallied 13 points and 9 rebounds. He was able to do what his pre-injury self could, although it was obvious that his timing wasn’t there yet. Nonetheless, it’s a good sign for STAR if he can stay healthy and continue to improve as the conference moves along.
Among the new guys, it was Norbert Torres that impressed me the most. Who knew he had that three-point shot in him? I didn’t. Sorry, Norbert, I underestimated you. Although his inside game needs to be polished a bit more, it can’t be denied that he will be an integral part of STAR’s future. I was also glad to see that Norbert was willing to bang bodies with the big boys in the league (i.e. Belga, Quinahan). Way to go, Norbear! #AnimoLaSalle
The Hotshots started the conference with a loss but it was a good loss. In this game, coach Jason Webb saw both the good and the bad. Now, they just have to figure out how to do more on the good side of things and be able to translate it into wins for the team.
They have a little less than three days to prepare for another big game coming up, against their former coach, Tim Cone and Barangay Ginebra San Miguel. Hopefully, they’ve already learned their lesson by then and come away with their first win of the conference.