Monday, January 19, 2009

PBA Semis: TNT Steals Game Three for 2-1 Edge

Game 3: TNT 110, SMB 106

Be careful what you wish for, you might just get it. After a ho-hum opening games--- one was a blowout, the other a rather expected victory--- the TNT-SMB series upped the semifinals fever with a classic game three which might as well be the best game of the series.

The series was described as a match made in heaven and it showed in the third installment. Good games are dictated by good match-ups. And when you have endless supply of offensive players, surely you'll have nonstop, end-to-end action at some point... And th
at was exactly what happened at the Araneta Coliseum last night.

Don Don Hontiveros was especially hot, shooting 8 of 12 from the three-land which included some quick-trigger attempts which speak volumes of his range, and confidence. The Cebuano finished with a career-high 39 points in 39 minutes. To boot, he added 9 rebounds and a couple of blocked shots. Not a bad game until...

Jimmy Alapag showed up. The spitfire guard scattered 22 points but none bigger by a string of baskets at the end game. Clearly now, TNT has realized that he is their leader--- either by scoring or helping his teammates--- and that they should run the plays through him to win this series. Alapag though knows he can't do it alone...

Ranidel de Ocampo hit a big three to steal the lead some time in the last two minutes... Harvey Carey and Ali Peek crashed the glass all night long stealing offensive rebounds and willingly and ably
converting them. Somewhere, Dorian Pena's foot is still hurting--- and hurting San Miguel inside.

Despite the heroics of the abovementioned players there were some who faltered--- either by pressure, lack of composure or simply, lack of experience... Experiencing some or all of that were...

Mac Mac Cardona. Booed and bothered in Game Two, then booed and bothered in the next as well was not his usual self. Give credit to San Miguel fans (around 9,000 of 'e
m) for this strategy. Clearly, Captain Hook was out of his zone because SMB fans decided out of the blue to hate him. Welcome to the pro league, Mac Mac. If you are not with us, you are against us--- that's the clear message from the fans. Sure, the La Sallite earned some hate during his UAAP wars--- but he was at a loss because at least in college they have their reasons to abhor him, but in the pros? Overnight, you become the enemy because that is what it is.

Then, there was the Bon Bon Custodio shot at the end game. Playing practically like an experienced veteran in previous games and series, the former UE stalwart found himself hitting the rookie wall (Also called Mountain Peek) with a rather questionable, rather ill-advised and rather bad shot that could have tied the ball game and sent it to overtime. Key word: could have.

What could have been the better decision was to find a way to find Don Don and ride his hot streak, after all the latter had 39 points at the point. i love Siot's confidence and trust with the rookie--- in the long run that pays dividends. But this was a situation when that decision haunted him. With rookies, you get some and you lose some. Too bad really that this one was a big loss. Key phrase: i'd take a Don Don missed three to end that game--- it's destiny. But no, Bon Bon decided to align his stars...



While San Miguel looked the hotter team for the evening, it was Talk N’ Text which shot the ball better at 48.8 per cent clip. Blame this one with the likes of Carey and Peek getting easy putbacks. San Miguel had a chance to up the lead multiple times in the last 5 minutes (and even the entire game) but the big men of TNT was just up to the task of abusing SMB downlow without Pena and Washington.

Both teams actually had trouble taking care of the ball as they turned the ball over 39 times. San Miguel being the more aggressive on the passing lanes with 9 steals compared to TNT’s 2 takeaways. Both teams took advantage of that as well with San Miguel converting 19 points off TO’s and TNT, 20.

Why did San Miguel lead for most part? Because they were more aggressive to the hoop earning 43 foul line shots and converting 86 per cent of those shots. Meanwhile, TNT just went to the line 24 times though they made good out of it converting 19 of those shots.

How did Talk N Text win the game? While San Miguel (particularly, especially maybe even exclusively Hontiveros) was shooting the lights out early on, they faltered in the last few minutes of the outing. On the other side of the coin, TNT was starting to hit (clutch) shots featuring Alapag and a little bit of Ranidel. Not to mention (and repeating for emphasis) that Carey and Peek were constantly inside the paint turning garbage into gold. Defensively, it showed that TNT can adjust when in dire straits. They forced Hontiveros into some forced shots in the latter part
and sent the help necessary during post-up plays and penetrations--- the defense on Bon Bon in the last play was just the icing on the defensive cake.

(Series stats - Click image for larger version)

What to expect in Game Four? This is getting redundant now: more and more of the same. Both teams did not leave their three point shooting behind--- a primary weapon they believe. But at the same time, it’s the teams that does the little things called offensive rebounding and forced turnovers (steals) that will decide the outcome of the series eventually. Game One, TNT jumped on the Beermen. Game Two, SMB decided to match that energy. Game Three, TNT was more aggressive inside. Game Four… More and more of the same.