Back in the 1st round if everyone can still remember, the match-up between the Ben Mbala-less DLSU Green Archers and the NU Bulldogs ran in a frantic up and down pace. Both teams played on their strengths and the game was decided on the final minute which we all know went to the green and white squad.
I do not see a change on this pace tomorrow so everyone should brace themselves into another up and down encounter between the Green Archers and the NU Bulldogs. Both teams may say that it will be just be another game in the schedule but if we will look at the team standings now, tomorrow’s game has huge implications on both teams.
For DLSU, winning tomorrow’s encounter will seal a twice to beat advantage in the postseason regardless whether Ateneo sweeps the elimination round or not. Should La Salle lose tomorrow’s match, this will allow Adamson to inch closer for that 2nd spot if they handle their business against the UP Fighting Maroons on Sunday.
For NU, tomorrow’s game will be a fight for their lives as losing tomorrow’s match will drop them to 4-8 in the standings and they must rely on FEU and UP to drop their games for them to have a chance of making it to the postseason festivities. After DLSU, NU will round up their elimination round schedule against FEU and UP respectively. So, winning tomorrow’s match against DLSU will still give NU a control of their own destiny as far as playing postseason basketball is concerned.
La Salle has won the 1st round match-up against NU without Ben Mbala so I think the Green Archers are in a good shape to take this 2nd round match-up. I thought Issa Gaye played well on that 1st round encounter so I think this time around, I do not think he will be able to boss around with Big Ben available for tomorrow’s match.
What La Salle must be wary about on NU on tomorrow’s encounter is NU’s hunger and urgency to win tomorrow’s match due the gravity of the situation that NU is in now. Just like what I mentioned earlier on this article, NU is fighting to qualify for postseason while for La Salle, they are already in it, they just want to have that twice to beat advantage.
Personally, since both teams would like to run, this match will all boil down as to which team can execute better on the half court set as this will prevent one team to run and score on the break. I would like to consider second-chance points on this discussion as scoring on putbacks also limits a team from running the break and scoring easy baskets. This disrupts the flow that quick scoring teams want to get into.
NU is dead-last at the moment on giving up 2nd chance points. With Ben Mbala around, NU will have even more trouble at this department. I seldom see NU put in two bigs at any given time on the floor so I am not sure if NU is exploring this idea for tomorrow’s match to compensate at that statistic category. But I think putting two bigs for NU will slow them down and prevent them from running the floor, which is their bread and butter.
The game tomorrow can also be decided by the team who will be able to capitalize on the mistakes that they will force on each other. With the pace being played by both teams, the aspect of discipline on playing the game is being sacrificed at times. We see that both teams are at the top of the list on fastbreak points scored but both teams are also the worst teams on giving up fastbreak points.
My point there is, if you can score on the break because of your defense, you have to make sure that you do not commit the same mistake also on the other end, allowing your opponent to do the same things to you. The perfect example here is if you muffed a fastbreak opportunity, there can be instances that you do not go back on defense right away and this gives your opponent a chance to score, hoping that you will get the ball quickly for another easy scoring opportunity on offense.
Whichever of these teams that will be able to run but at the same time limit their turnovers and opponent’s fastbreak opportunities will have the better chance of winning this game. Jordan Bartlett had a feast back in the 1st round meeting between these two teams as he was able to dissect the Green Archers’ defense in the 2nd half. But then, it was well compensated by La Salle’s perimeter shooting and half court execution.
Now, with another added arsenal available for the Green Archers, I would just want to see them play on a higher level and exceed whatever urgency NU has for tomorrow’s game. I am not sure if Coach Aldin will employ a three-big strategy but it will be interesting to see that in tomorrow’s game since La Salle’s bigs are not slow bigs that cannot play defense on perimeter players. La Salle’s bigs are quick enough to chase players in the perimeter and disrupt and opposing team’s defense.
NU’s offense will still rely heavily on Jayjay Alejandro’s creativity. He is NU’s top offensive guy both on scoring and assists and I think after him, there is no other player on NU’s roster which is a threat on both offensive categories (save for what Bartlett did back in that 1st round match). Limiting his offensive creative capabilities will be important for tomorrow’s match. NU will have a chance of keeping up with La Salle or winning the match if the Bulldogs can find another offensive creator in which so far they failed to find this season.
Basically, this is a winnable game for the Green Archers. The Green Archers will just have to stay focused and follow their game plan. This may be a cliché but energy, hustle, and effort will be important for tomorrow’s up and down encounter against NU. Blinking an eye will not be an option once you are on the floor playing. NU has been inconsistent this season because of lack of support to Alejandro but they are still a dangerous team and the Green Archers cannot relax facing this team tomorrow.