May 6, 2011

Ah yes, the PBA: Where Cagi Sparkles happens

So yes, the PBA is still in business, thanks to a Ginebra team that is in the Finals. They've beaten the national team handled by MVP's SBP, now they're battling MVP's flagship team Talk 'N Text. If they'd win, MVP will close AksyonTV.

TNT is up 3-2, after Ginebra avoided elimination with a performance that, in a nutshell, says that the PBA is so not fixed. Maybe.

So... when was the last time a non-Metro Pacific and a non-PLDT team met in the Finals? It was in the 2000 All-Filipino Cup where Alaska defeated Purefoods (it was still under the Ayalas then). You'd probably remember that tourney where Tanduay forfeited 2 semis games against Purefoods due to Sonny Alvardo, then Boyet Fernandez hit the dagger trey to clinch Purefoods the Finals berth.

Back to 2011, what were the things Ginebra did in their victories?

A few things come into mind. First, Nate Brumfield was grabbing boards like a madman. For some reason, he's not that trigger happy, but once he grabs some rebounds, Ginebra can find ways to win.

Another was preventing TNT's penetrations, well most of it. When he's focused, Paul Harris penetrated at will. If Ginebra doesn't double Jason Castro, either he'd post up the defender, or he'd drive to the lane molesting the defense.

Ginebra's interior defense kept them in series. Despite their distinct height advantage, TNT doesn't have a back-to-the-basket type of player, except for Ali Peek (who only shows up when Eric Menk's on the floor, and vice versa). Their big guys either penetrate (Williams and Harris), shoot treys (de Ocampo) or both. Now, for Ginebra, this simplifies their defensive game plan: prevent penetration both from the bigs and from the guards (Castro and Reyes).

Among TNT's players, only de Ocampo and Alapag are legit three-point shooters. Jason Castro does have an outside shot but he's more of a Tony Parker type of a player.

Ginebra, which has been known as an outside shooting team for much of its history, still relies from rainbow country to provide buckets. Labagala, Wilson and Intal have been providing the Kings with outside sniping to open up the lanes for... well I dunno. As much as Brumfield improved his play on Game 5, he was still having a difficult time down low. Only Mark Caguioa can be relied upon making drives. Eric Menk had been toying around with the hook shot with moderate success/failure. Even Willie Miller is settling in on outside jumpers on a half court set.

What Talk 'N Text needs to do, on the other hand, is to open up the floor for their penetrators. Now for a team with a limited arsenal from the perimeter, that means their shooters have to provide treys to open up the lanes. Surprisingly, Ginebra's interior defense held well in Game 5.

As a parting shot, remember all those teams San Beda beaten in their three-peat? PCU (2005), Letran (2006) and JRU (2007). It's interesting to point out that all of those defeated teams have at least one player on both of the teams' rosters.

Aaron Aban is subbing for TNT at a regular basis. He's also became of a defensive specialist against the opposing team's gunners when he's on the floor. Aban's nemesis during the 2004 finals, Jason Castro, is wowing hoops fans as probably the best locally-bred player in the Texters roster. And John Wilson was named co-best player in Game 2 for Ginebra.

As for San Beda? They have no players in either of the teams. The champion of the NCAA doesn't have a player in the PBA Finals. Who was the best player from those teams that has made it big, heck is given playing time? Yousif Aljamal's minutes is comparable to the Lakers' Trey Johnson. Wait, the Lakers have a player named Trey Johnson? Heck even his buddy Riego Gamalinda has more MPG (5) than him (3). Only Pong Escobal has a career in Derby Ace, with a decent 13 MPG, comparable to Matt Barnes'. The rest of his statline? 2.3 PPG, 1.1 APG, and .400 FG PCT. Ogie Menor, who had a one night stand at La Salle, is playing at the D-League. This guy was their Finals MVP in 2007!

San Beda doesn't have a player in the PBA Finals. Their 2006 Finals MVP sits on the bench longer than his teammate, who came off the bench for him. Their 2007 Finals MVP is playing in the D-League. And their 2008 Finals MVP? Well he's an import so he doesn't count in PBA land.

What does that tell you?

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