Physicality is back in PBA: Coaches Pleased

Coach Norman Black

Alex Compton and Norman Black laud PBA’s move to provide more leeway for physicalities

Over the course of the past few seasons, one of the usual grievances that are being voiced out by the players, coaches and even the fans is that referees back then were almost “trigger happy” when calling fouls on physical plays. And we cannot blame them for voicing out such grievances. Picture this, folks. Referees could whistle you for a foul for simply bumping the player whom you are defending. That’s really frustrating and could change the overall pace of the game because the more fouls that were called, the slower the game becomes. And slow games bore fans. They want faster games. They want more physicalities.
Fortunately, things are starting to get better as one of the changes that OIC Willie Marcial wants to implement this year is the reinstatement of the old “No Harm No Foul”  rule for the purpose of speeding up games and also to make the games themselves more exciting especially for the fans. Like it or not, the officiating has been horrible that fans were complaining about fouls that should haven’t been called and fouls that should have been called And the frequent call of fouls have taken away the physicality in the PBA.
Before 2018 came in, Willie Marcial has stated that the league has already started training its referees as they prepare for the reinstatement of the said rule.
Just last January 10, 2018, two coaches expressed that they were overall pleased with the higher amount of physicality that was allowed during their game. Those coaches are none other than Norman Black and Alex Compton- both coaches whose team are relying heavily on their physicality especially on the defensive end.
Norman Black, for one, despite losing to Compton’s Alaska Aces, 103-98, shared his observation that the game was being officiated a “little bit” differently and even took note that more contact between players was allowed on the court.
Alex Compton, for his part, has said that he’s liking the new direction that the PBA is taking when it comes to the officiating of the games. The American coach even said that allowing more physicality to come into play is good for the game.

Conclusion

The best thing about the reinstatement of the “No Harm No Foul” rule is that more coaches and players can do their defensive assignments better because they are now lesser worried about being called for a foul.The only side effect of this is that we’ll see more flopping players but then again, we just have to accept that flopping has been a part of the game, right? And so is physicality.  

What Doomed Meralco against the Aces?

Chris Newsome
(Photo by the PBA Media Bureau)

Chris Newsome and company have lost two straight games

Over the course of the last two seasons, the Meralco Bolts have been dealing with their own inconsistencies. Sure, they have been to the Governors’ Cup Finals for two consecutive seasons but they haven’t cracked the code just yet they have lost twice in the Finals against the same team, the Barangay Ginebra Gin Kings. And their inconsistencies have appeared to be holding them down again in the Philippine Cup.
After winning their first game to open the 43rd season of the PBA, the Bolts are now on a 2-game losing streak after losing to the lowly Alaska Aces, 103-98. That, by the way, was the Aces’ first win in 3 games. And frankly, it wasn’t an upset win either because Meralco wasn’t playing the same way they did in the Finals against Ginebra. Not even close.
So what exactly doomed the Bolts this time?

They got Murdered Inside

The Bolts got dominated from the inside as they allowed Calvin Abueva and company to outscore them 54-20 in points in the paint. Their shooting from the 2-point area also doomed the Bolts as they only 35% of their attempts from the 2-point territory. On the other hand, Alaska went 31 for 66 from the 2-point area, a 46% shooting. 

Defensive Lapses. And More

Meralco was known as a defensive-minded team over the two seasons but their defense against the Aces was simply acceptable. Sure, the Bolts were able to shut down Jeron Teng who was held to 8 points on 2 for 8 shooting from the field but for the rest of the Aces? Meralco’s defense just vanished. 
Another proof that Meralco’s defense wasn’t working at all was the fact that they got outscored in points off fast break opportunities: 14-4. The Aces were also the better team in terms of getting more points off their missed opportunities as they held an 11-9 edge in second-chance points.

Alaska’s Bench produced 50 Points

As mentioned above, Meralco did contain Jeron Teng but forgot about Calvin Abueva who led Alaska with 19 points on 7 for 10 shooting. Aside from that, the bench of Norman Black failed to match the intensity of the Aces’ bench troopers who combined for 50 of the Aces’ 103 points. Vic Manuel also had 19 points while coming off the bench.

Conclusion 

Norman Black is one of the league’s greatest coaches and it’s only a matter of time until he figures things out with his players. Having a 1-2 record this early doesn’t necessarily mean that Meralco is a bad team and so is Alaska. However, the Bolts need to speed their improvements soon because their schedule isn’t about to get easier. Why? the Talk N Text KaTropa are up next on the Bolts’ schedule. 

Meralco Gets Boost from Free Agency

Injury problem pushed the Bolts to sign Canaleta and others

The Meralco Bolts are heading into the league’s 43rd season after losing to the Barangay Ginebra Gin Kings in the Governors’ Cup Finals for the second consecutive year. 
While the series went to a Game 7 after Ginebra blew their chances to sweep the series, the Bolts’ latest setback against the Gin Kings raised many questions which included the question of whether the Bolts will ever have what it takes to win their first championship in franchise history.  Will the Bolts go to win a championship anytime soon or will they settle for runner-up finishes?
Head Coach Norman Black is facing an injury issue with his players, not to mention the fact that the Finals series of the closing conference went to a full 7-game series- causing some Bolt players to feel exhausted after playing extended minutes during that series. Ranidel De Ocampo for one, missed the majority of that series due to injury. RDO did sign a new contract with the Bolts but we all know that he’s no longer the same catch-and-shoot guy we all saw during the last few years. Even though he’s a stretched forward, bigger and younger guys are emerging in the PBA and the Bolts need to provide reinforcements for RDO and company if they want to continue to be a competitive team.
Recently, the Meralco Bolts inked deals with free agents Nico Salva, KG Canaleta, Mac Baracael and Jason Ballesteros – all frontline players- to provide the needed reinforcements especially with Cliff Hodge and Reynel Hugnatan taking extended resting periods. This decision by Norman Black to rest his stars will enable the new guys to have bigger playing minutes starting in the upcoming Philippine Cup which starts on December 17.
KG Canaleta, for one, has been around in the league and has an established reputation as a scorer and a good defender too- something that the Bolts sorely needed. Nico Salva is reunited with his college coach so it’s expected that he’ll be playing more for Meralco. Both Mac Baracael and Jason Ballesteros can beef up the defensive strength of the Bolts owing to their brute size.

Conclusion

Canaleta et al will definitely provide more firepower for the Bolts. Now, whether or not these signings by the Bolts will give Meralco its first-ever championship is something that nobody can ever predict because, at the end of the day, one’s consistency will dictate how far one can go, right? 

By the Numbers: Durham, Hugnatan and the Threes that Lifted the Bolts

For one game, Meralco was able to work around their height disadvantage and won one against the giants

Allen Durham played Game 3 like the Best Import he should be.  
Just when Ginebra thought that they can sweep the series and celebrate by tomorrow night, just when Ginebra defenders thought that the Meralco Bolts would continue with their brick-shooting habit, the defending champions were proven wrong as the Bolts came out from nowhere as they regained their shooting touch, torched the Gin Kings and the result: a 94-81 victory which trimmed down the series deficit to 2-1.

Of course, this victory by the Bolts changed nothing primarily because Ginebra is still 2 wins away from clinching the championship while Meralco will need to win tomorrow’s Game 4, win Game 5 and then a victory in Game 6 will give them their first championship in franchise history.

If any of you missed last night’s game and are wondering what on Earth happened, let this basketball pundit on wheels run some numbers for you:

11 Threes Made

Since the Barangay Ginebra Gin Kings are relatively filled with giant players, the alternative for the Bolts of Norman Black was to shoot from the outside and that was something they did horribly back in the first two games of this best-of-7 series. How bad was it?

Game 1

8 out of 34

Game 2 

5 out of 18
In total, the Bolts only made 13 of their whopping 52 ATTEMPTS from deep. That number changed dramatically in Game 3 where Meralco made 11 of their shots from rainbow country. 7 of those 11 made baskets came from the old man, Reynel Hugnatan. See? If the Bolts are shooting better especially from beyond the three-point line, they can beat the champs. In fact, if they can keep this kind of shooting come tomorrow, they can even dethrone Ginebra. Consistency is the key here for the Bolts especially with the fact that Ranidel De Ocampo only played sparingly but was taken out of Game 3 due to injury. Jared Dillinger needs to keep making more of those long-distance bombs instead of missing them. 

22 Points from Reynel Hugnatan- Surprise!

We all know that one of the oldest players sitting on the bench of Norman Black, Reynel Hugnatan- can make those three-pointers as if he is Jimmy Alapag. And that’s not a surprise, really. Hugnatan used to drain away those bombs during the last time both teams met in the Finals last year. His 22 points in last night’s Game 3 were built on 7 three-pointers, making 7 of his 12 attempts- a 58% 3-point shooting. If anything, the Meralco Bolts will need more from Grandpa Reynel if they seriously want to challenge the supremacy of the Gin Kings. 

38 points, 19 rebounds, 5 blocks for Allen Durham

That stat-line above is a testament that Allen Durham is indeed, deserving of his back-to-back Best Import awards. He made 50% of his 30 attempts in Game 3 and 72% of his 11 free throw attempts. And yes, Durham is one of the primary reasons why the Bolts won last night because he was the lone starter for Meralco who scored in double figures. 

Conclusion

One game doesn’t change anything- at least for the defending champions. But for the challengers to the champions, it means everything to them. For one game, the Bolts were able to take down the giants. For one game, Meralco was able to electrocute the Gin Kings with their three-pointers. For one game, Norman Black and the rest of the Bolts walked out victorious. The next step for them: do them all over again for 3 more games- starting with tomorrow’s Game 4. 

The Bolts’ Game 1 Win: The Good, the Bad and the Worse

Looking at the things that both helped and cost them the victory

Chirs Newsome only had 7 points before fouling out. (Photo by the PBA Media Bureau)

If you happened to be a fan of the Meralco Bolts, then you have all the reasons to be happy after the Bolts took an important Game 1 victory against the Star Hotshots via a 72-66 come-from-behind win to start their best-of-5 semifinal series. However, one cannot simply deny the mere fact that even diehard fans cannot be satisfied with the outcome of the game, with the way Norman Black’s players played the game, to begin with. One may blame the fact that Meralco only had a short period of time to prepare coming into Game 1 as they had to beat the Blackwater Elite during their do-or-die quarterfinal game. One may even blame fatigue factor. There were many things that contributed to the Bolts and there were many things that also ruined them the game and might have allowed Star to win. 

Below are the Good, the Bad and, the Worse:

The Good

Okay. Let’s begin with the good things that enabled Meralco to win Game 1 last night. Allen Durham had another one of his monstrous games as he led the Bolts with 23 points and 23 REBOUNDS. In fact, only Durham had a respectable shooting percentage last night as he made 9 of his 16 attempts, good for 56% field goal shooting.
Another good thing that helped the Bolts especially in the 4th quarter was Jared Dillinger’s 15 points off the bench.In fact, it was Dillinger’s basket approaching the final 60 seconds of the game which gave the Bolts the lead for good as Star failed to score from that point on. Without Dillinger’s timely made three-pointers, the game would have ended differently.
One more thing, Kris Acox’s offensive output was limited to 7 points on 3 of 8 field goal shooting and if you’re Norman Black, you’d be happy with this defensive success by the Bolts’ big men, right?

The Bad

As mentioned above, the Bolts also did tons of things that put them in difficult situations last night. For example, only their import, Allen Durham managed to make the most of his opportunities as the Bolts as a team, only made 35% of their field goal attempts and if you’re Norman Black, you would be disappointed despite the win, right? In addition to this, the usually explosive backcourt tandem of Baser Amer and Chris Newsome only combined for 17 points on a combined horrible 5 of 19 field goal shooting. Another notable bad thing that may have compromised the outcome of the game was the Bolts’ forgettable performance from rainbow country. Sure, Jared Dillinger’s trey late in the 4th was proved to be the turning point but you can’t just make 8 of your 30 ATTEMPTS from downtown and expect to win in the PBA, in the semifinals, against a team like the Star Hotshots. 

The Worse

Okay. Let’s not forget the mere fact that the Meralco Bolts allowed the Star Hotshots to bury them back in the first quarter when the Bolts went 5 minutes without scoring a thing until Cliff Hodge stopped the bleeding with a free throw and Allen Durham finally converted the Bolts’ first field goal in 12 attempts. By the end of the first frame, Meralco had 7 points compared to the Hotshots’ 21 points. As a team, the Bolts only made TWO of their 18 shot attempts in the first quarter alone. 
They may be able to come out with the win on this one but Norman Black knows, as well as his players, that if Meralco wants another shot at the title, they cannot start the game by going scoreless for the first 5 minutes and rely heavily on their import to the heavy lifting because no matter how good Durham is, the Star Hotshots will find other ways to shut him down or shut down the other players.