The storyline for tomorrow’s game has become much simpler. Win and still get a chance to get that #2 position going into the Final Four and that coveted twice to beat advantage. Lose and face again the well-oiled UE Red Warrior machine steamrolling in the league at the moment (I expect UE to beat UST on Tuesday to be honest). Another consequence is that the loser of tomorrow’s game may see themselves gone fishing this early considering that NU and DLSU positioned themselves early on to clinch those Final Four slots.
I am not sure as well if NU or DLSU wants to see UE again at this point so I am expecting another all-out gut-wrenching close game tomorrow between the Green Archers and the Bulldogs. Primarily for the Green Archers, Jeron Teng definitely needs help on the offensive end, especially in the area of creating opportunities for defenses to break down so that DLSU can rotate the ball more. For NU, what’s changed from the first round until now is that Troy Rosario has been given more leeway on the offensive end, getting more touches and providing plays to Alfred Aroga to seal deep and get easy baskets.
Back in the first round, NU relied more on their perimeter game, even I was surprised that Aroga settled for jumpers (Alfred was 6-for-9 from the field that game, leading NU in scoring with 12 points) and the Bulldogs ending up with 25 perimeter points in the process. Most came from isolation sets wherein Aroga and Rosario making jumpers out of jab steps, in which I think was DLSU’s plan back in that game to let the Bulldogs shoot jumpers rather than getting comfortable inside. I still see DLSU putting on this game plan for tomorrow’s game, carefully letting NU players to take challenged jumpers but not giving them enough room to penetrate inside the paint.
With this type of defense back in the first round, Gelo Alolino was not able to put up his usual numbers as he was down to just 9 points in 3-for-10 shooting from the field. Gelo had difficulty measuring up and getting into his usual groove of taking his floaters once he is inside the paint. If NU was not able to convert their challenged jumpers, the margin of victory for DLSU would have been bigger in this game.
One thing to watch out for NU is their pick and roll off hand-offs either at the top of the key or on the elbow spots. That’s where Gelo Alolino likes to thrive as well as Nico Javelona who has been shooting well in NU’s previous games. It is also the same area where Rev Diputado gets his rhythm on offense so taking away this option or limiting NU’s production on this sets will make them revert back to an isolation offense wherein Alolino, Diputado, Rosario, and Khobuntin are all comfortable taking it strong to the basket as compared to taking jumpers.
DLSU’s bigs have to be wary of Aroga and Betayene’s spots on the floor where they flash quickly deep in the paint to get easy baskets. It will still be better for Aroga and Betayene to catch the ball in an area where it is not their comfort zone. Back in the first round game, DLSU lived by its 32 inside points courtesy of Norbert and Jason. Hopefully, both, along with Arnold, will get their groove tomorrow and get those inside points once again to force NU to play Neypes, Perez, and Salim in the middle. Especially Jason, I’d really like to see him get his offensive contribution back on track.
Jason is the team’s third leading scorer with 10.3 points per game and if he cannot get his focus and get his rhythm going, it makes life difficult for the Green Archers to win ball games. Getting better in his match-ups tomorrow will be a key since it can be against one of NU’s offensive threats, either Troy Rosario or Glenn Khobuntin. Making one or both of those work on defense will help decrease their offensive contribution so for me, it will be important to have that third scorer behind Jeron and Almond to have a good game tomorrow and I am hoping that it will be Jason.
If the statistics of the first round encounter of these two teams can be seen, all stats were close except for the inside points and perimeter points category. I still see that DLSU will keep on doing that, going inside the paint as its primary source of offensive production. As for NU, I am expecting adjustments since they would like to do the same, getting inside points as much as possible and not rely on one-on-one jumpers off created, challenged shots.
Another thing going for these two teams is that both rely on playing tough defense to get stops and get baskets on the break so I am also expecting to see off and on the ball pressure, especially on the perimeter, not making it easy for both teams to set up their offense. Both teams’ image of playing tough defense was reflected in their first round game as NU was limited to just 37% field goal shooting while DLSU finished the game with 35% shooting from the field. It will not be easy to score on half court sets that is why it will be important to get easy baskets off transition to take away the burden of scoring from half court sets.
Just like last season, DLSU’s final game in the elimination round will be an all-important one. Last year, DLSU had to beat UST to force a triple tie at 10-4, giving them a chance to secure a twice to beat advantage and finish as the #2 team at the end of the elimination round via a playoff. This season, it is the same scenario all over again. It will be another tiring, physical game, but more importantly, for as long as the team stays mentally tough for forty minutes, it will definitely give the Green Archers a good chance to win the game. Relax for the rest of the day guys as tomorrow, do not expect to be one, especially when the ball tips off at 6:00pm.
Whatever the result is, it will always be La Salle all the way.