The View from the Armchair – Game 5 vs UE

The Green Archers came off an erratic game game against NU with an emphatic rout of rebuilding UE, taking a quarter to get the measure of the Red Warriors before turning it on in the second quarter behind the traditional pressing and trapping defense to pull away and coast to the win.

At the end, the margin was 24 points, 87-63. Some critics of the tam will probably ask: “was the lead big enough? Or should it have been double that?” After all, UE is a rebuilding team, which doesn’t seem to have the manpower to climb out of the cellar.

The Green Archers climbed into 4th place with the blowout win over UE, in the process going over 50% for the first time this season with the 3rd consecutive win. They took all of the first quarter to gain their bearings, allowing the Warriors to keep pace before turning on the heat in the second behind a suffocating full court press/trap and a sterling performance by Oda Tampus to blow the game wide open and take a 19-point lead at halftime. The Archers exploded for a 32-point quarter while limiting UE to another 13-point quarter.

Another rocky 3rd quarter start featuring 5 straight travelling errors rekindled concerns about another 3rd quarter meltdown, but the Archers regained their bearings to snuff out any UE hopes for a comeback. The last quarter saw Coach Dindo empty his bench and give Fonzo Gotladera, Papot Paredes, and Martin Reyes some minutes with the outcome of the game already decided.

Initial thoughts on the win

Disappointing. After whetting our appetites for another round of ugly ball, the Archers reverted to Dr. Jeckyll for the majority of the game, displaying a lot of energy both on offense and defense to completely outplay the Warriors. Why disappointing? Because the NU win proved that the team can win despite playing ugly, despite not being at their best.

And in the process of routing UE, the Archers exposed their strong points.

Against the hapless Warriors, it was possible for the Archers to win without completely showing all their cards. Now it’s clear that the press is very much alive and kicking, and can still be effective despite the different press break schemes now being employed by the other teams.

The offensive weapons were also unveiled for all to see. Our outside shooters like Marata, dela Paz, Atkins, and even Revilla will now be closely marked on the outside all game long. And the opposing bigs will attempt to nip the budding inside game of AVO, paying much more attention to him at the start of the game when the team usually attempts to establish his presence.  Tampus will also be closely marked by his man once he crosses the half court line, with or without the ball.

Not good. We’ve lost the element of surprise. Now the opponents will be ready for us.

What went wrong

The errors, quite a number of them. 5 travelling miscues in the 3 minutes of the 3rd quarter. Eleven, yes eleven (!!!) turnovers in the 3rd quarter alone. We absolutely can’t afford to make that many errors against the stronger teams. That’s a sure-fire recipe for a loss. 23 turnovers in the game, against a weak team, which only had 1 more turnover than we did. They scored 11 points off our turnovers.  Guys, we need to take care of the ball. True, UE is a weak team, but there’s no excuse for being careless. Not if we want to go far this season.

The free throws – we suffered a relapse, missing 11 out of 29 attempts for a poor 62%. We can give away a winning margin by missing our fts. BTW, maybe we can consider 2 consecutive missed fts as a turnover if we can’t get the rebound. After all, the opponents get the ball back – it’s as if we just handed it to them with the misses. Can’t miss that many against the good teams.

Surprisingly we were outrebounded by the smaller Warriors, 42-43. We allowed them to pull down 17 offensive boards. Not good. We’re supposed to dominate the boards and keep the competition away.

The positives

Oda Tampus showed that he is now one of the most consistent 2-way players on the Archer roster, scoring 15 points while harassing the UE ball handlers. He’s almost an automatic basket once he gets a running start on his man within 10 feet of the basket, and his much-improved ball handling has given Coach Dindo an alternative ball carrier against an opponents’ press. Almond Vosotros finally played a complete game, scoring effectively while ably taking over quarterbacking chores when LA Revilla was given a breather.

The continued excellent all-around play of Revilla, the energy, hustle of Villanueva and Andrada, the improving accuracy of our shooters (Atkins, dela Paz, Marata), all these give us reason for some guarded optimism that the team can shoot its way out of a jam if needed.

Did I mention defense? 40 minutes of unrelenting pressure. Sure, the press and trap will get broken at times, sometimes easily, because the opponents will have prepared and they do have some good ballers. But more often than not, it will now be a struggle to set up plays because the pressure just eats up so much of the opponent’s shot clock. Our improved ceiling allows our bigs (including Revilla who had 2) to alter shots and get some blocks. The bottom line is we will get more stops than we did in the first 2 games.

The first 2 games (which we lost) taught our players a lot, and it’s now beginning to show. And they’re starting to put all that training and learning to good use, unlike in the first 2 games where they were a bit lost. It’s also apparent that the players have much more trust in each other, and are willing to share the ball unlike last year where some players would take the ball all the way instead of passing off to an open teammate. This can be seen in the assists, 23 on 32 field goals against UE.

Finally, all the players got to play, even Martin Reyes who scored our last 4 points. Only Sara and Gotladera failed to get into the scoring column. The actual game-time experience will help them later on in the season.

Looking forward

Up next is Adamson, which is coming off an upset to NU. The Falcons will be raring to erase the memories of their meltdown against the underdogs (pun intended). And they figure to have our number after sweeping our last few encounters. Their frontline, while not as big as ours, are all mobile and can hit the outside shot. Their guards, Alvarez and Canada, are always a handful, and have had success in the last 2 years with their outside sniping and dribble penetrations.

Adamson was successful going zone against us, and will dare us to beat them from outside. Coach Dindo unveiled some nifty inside passing plays against the zone in our first few games, so we’ll have some zone breakers. If our snipers like dela Paz, Marata, and Atkins continue their good play, we’ll be able to break the zone and force them to go man-to-man, allowing more freedom inside for our slashers like Tampus, dela Paz and even Webb.

I think we’ll finally break that undesirable streak against Adamson. If we do, we’ll be half a game up on them, and in a good position for the final 4. Not a bad place to be right now.