25 March 2011

Panic Button allowed Bolts to Flourish

Sol Mercado and Macmac Cardona
After losing four games in a row and no wins to show despite getting involved in several high profile trades, the Meralco Bolts begun to worry. And if you are one of their most avid fan, you may want to tell them that they were right to worry.

During one of their practice sessions, one player who refused to be identified said they are pressing the panic button. That button allowed Meralco to send home their high-flying, Bible-reading import Tony Danridge and replaced him with sweet-shooting Chamberlan "Champ" Oguchi.

During Dandridge's stint, the Bolts were unable to execute any effective defensive play. In their first two games, for instance, they allowed their opponents to score more than 105 points. Not only that, they are unable to extend their defense to the perimeter allowing opponents to shoot 31 percent from the rainbow area.

The team's struggles on defense can also be attributed to the coach persistent style of adjusting to their opponent's strength rather than let the opposing team adjust to tempo and style of play.

In the Bolts' first loss, the coaching staff allowed Asi Taulava to play extensive minutes because they want him to match up with the likes of Eric Menk and Enrico Villanueva. Taulava played 34 minutes and scored 23 points aside from grabbing 10 rebounds.

Against Rain or Shine Elastopainters, Taulava was fielded for only 21 minutes even if there were no significant low-post threat opposing him. As a result, the Painter’s Dog Kramer had a field day scoring 11 points and grabbing 8 rebounds.

The two superstars at the backcourt also did not complement each other well. Sol Mercado, who was acquired before the conference from the Painters in a trade, scored 19 points in their first game. Macmac Cardona, on the other hand, scored only 6 points.

The tables were turned on their second loss when Mercado can only manage to contribute 8 points, while Cardona scored 22 points.

Mercado and Cardona cannot seem to get their game going at the same time. Worse, they took 35 percent (31/88) of the total team attempts in the first game and a mesmerizing 55 percent (41/77) in the second game. They converted 32 percent of their attempts against Ginebra and 54 percent against the Painters.

Ideally, there should be no problem with these figures considering that the Bolts don't have that many scoring option, but if the dynamic duo continue to dominate the offensive pattern, fewer Bolts are getting involved in the plays. This makes the Bolt's offense more predictable and defensible.

As much as the Bolts say they are not worrying, they also are not enough solution available fixing the problems. Import Anthony Dandridge is only effective in an open court and when you take him away from his comfort zone, he does not have enough offensive option in his arsenal to pull the team. Forward Reynel Hugnatan is still working his way back into form after being traded from the Alaska Aces. The Bolts bench looked promising early in the conference, but Marlou Aquino and Renren Ritualo have been slowed by age and Gabby Espinas has not offered much offensively.

Obviously missing in the rotation is Nelbert Omolon. It's understandable that his minutes could go down since he is sharing a position with Dadridge, but the coaching staff should not ignore the possible contribution of the former PCU standout. The 30-year old forward averaged in double-digit scoring when the franchise was still under Sta. Lucia, but his numbers went down drastically (6.1 points and 3.8 rebounds per game) since Coach Ryan Gregorio handled the reins.

They just secured their first back-to-back win this conference, their 2 wins so far against four losses, and it seems that panic button allowed the team to execute their play more cohesively and become more emotionally involved every game.

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