After getting beat by the De La Salle Green Archers by 15 points, Adamson Soaring Falcons head coach Franz Pumaren had this to say:

“I think they played the best game so far of the season and we played the worst game so far.”

So did they?

For La Salle, it’s a bit easy to answer. Yes, this was the best La Salle has played up until this point, even considering the beating they laid down on UST, which got them to the century mark, all while keeping a comfortable 38-point cushion.

100 Points 91
97.77 ORTG 107.99
42.55 eFG% 52.08
102.28 Pace 84.27
22 Turnovers 26
39.36% FG% 47.22

A look at key stats from their game against UST and AdU shows that while La Salle went on a giant rampage against UST, they definitely played more efficient basketball against Adamson. Because the pace went down in the Adamson game, the Archers couldn’t rely too much on their shoot-and-see-what-sticks method of basketball. Instead they made an effort to run plays, force turnovers and get clean looks, which quite frankly, there were a lot of.

But at the other side of the equation, did the Soaring Falcons really play that poorly?

Personally, gameplan-wise, this was a pretty decent game. Adamson got the loops they wanted. Perhaps to Coach Pumaren’s mind, what made this a bad game for them was the fact that his players were missing a lot of shots that normally went in.

Compare for example,  Jerrick Ahanmisi in the game against DLSU and against NU. Ahanmisi actively worked for his shot in the La Salle game. He constantly got open for his three bombs, but the only problem was that they weren’t going in at the rate he would have wanted.

vs NU vs DLSU
8 Points 22
25% Field Goal Percentage 38.9
0% Three Point Percentage 33.3
96.4 ORTG 107.0
25% eFG% 50%
17.2% Usage Rate 25.2%

Contrast this to what they did against NU. Ahanmisi went 0-of-4 in the first half and then just abandoned his three-point attempts. They were forced to dig into their bag of tricks and thankfully for Coach Franz, Kristian Bernardo pulled through for them, busting out a 150 offensive rating performance.

Defensively, there was little more Adamson could have done better according to their game plan. To their credit, many of DLSU’s three-point makes had hands in the faces of their shooters. The Archers were making a lot of bad shots, while the opposite can be said of Adamson, as they missed a lot of gimmes.

DLSU’s trademark “mayhem” defense allows them to play recklessly and still win. However, the Archers were uncharacteristically efficient this game. On the other hand, Adamson which has set the bar high when it comes to efficiency, was forced to play with more offensive aggression, while sacrificing their efficiency.

Rebound issues

The Falcons have constantly been out-rebounded. They are by far the worst rebounding team in the league right now, but this is of little consequence to them given their efficiency-first gameplan. Less missed shots mean less offensive rebounding opportunities, but their defensive rebounding needs to be addressed. In the FEU and DLSU games, they were hurt by second-chance points they gave up. Forcing misses means nothing if the possession doesn’t change.

So far, only Papi Sarr has stepped up to become their main rebounder, with JD Tungcab chipping in every so often, just because his height allows him to.

Veteran Poise

One interesting trend with this team is their ability to put aside egos. It’s apparent that the bulk of the talent of this team lies in their rookies. With the exception of Papi Sarr, most of their holdovers have taken backseats to the newer players, but it hasn’t stopped them from stepping up when their team needed it.

Despite the capable hands of Robbie Manalang at the point to run their offense, Harold Ng has been a glue guy for this team on several occasions, not really making a mark on the scoreboard or stat sheet, but providing a sense of control amidst the chaos that his scorer teammates unleash.

The same can be said of homegrown JD Tungcab, whose play I often have a love-hate relationship with. There are moments when Adamson is on a run and he somehow doesn’t get the memo that they are searing hot. But when they meet scoring droughts, his playmaking ability has pulled them through, and given them the cushion they needed to weather the storm.

He has gone to offensive lows, like in the game against FEU, where he gave a 7.1 ORTG performance, but he has also played hero for the Falcons, like in the game against NU when his 125.7 ORTG performance led them to victory.

Coaching Pride and Responsibility

Coach Franz’s claim that their ability to force more turnovers is a sign of their potential, isn’t just an indication of what his wards can do, but of how willing he is to defend them and how responsible he feels of their performance.

DLSU has not been a team that takes good care of the ball. They don’t need to since they know they can always stop their opponents from scoring. But Coach Franz probably already knows this and chooses to highlight it, if for anything, to give hope to his young wards and make them believe that there is much to be learned from their recent different faculties.

The games against NU and DLSU were games that we saw Adamson struggle to execute their game plan and score. Both times the team responded with the same resilience, despite producing very different outcomes.

The Falcons are a team of efficiency, there’s no doubt about it anymore. They are currently number one in the league in eFG%. Their performance can be rated by the eFG% they produce in each game. They’ve shown that they can get that stat line to skyrocket when things go well. They’ve shown they can find ways to keep their efficiency above water long enough to pull off a win. What they need to do now is to show that they can win even when their efficiency abandons them.

It’s still a long season ahead. The Falcons have grown and matured faster than anyone predicted. Struggle is good early on, because it gives them a chance to iron out the kinks. The runway is clear, all the Falcons need to do is to take off.