05 July 2011

Meralco Breakdown

Asi Taulava's Defense
The Meralco Bolts take on Air 21 on Wednesday night (6 July 2011), and though the Bolts have had their fair share of injury and ennui-related troubles recently, Air 21 will be the clear underdog. And should things go according to script, the Bolts will then finish the game with a 3-2 record. And though we should expect some orthodoxy on game night, that sort of record goes way, way against script.

Confident now? Of course not. The last two games of the Bolts that ended in two losses were a result of some pretty obvious blunders. The coaching staff opted to shelve some good defenders, and their team couldn't hang on against the likes of Joe Davence, James Yap, Mark Caguioa and Ronald Tubid.

Champ Oguchi, as expected led the way for the Bolts, with 23.0 points. Sol Mercado also provided good numbers in those two losses with 22.5 points and 7.0 assists, while Gabby Espinas averaged 10.0 points and 10.5 rebounds. However, aside from these three, nobody came close to averaging in double figures in scoring.

Asi Taulava may be an aging warrior and nobody expects him to score as much as before, but is rebounding prowess is still formidable. In those two losses, Taulava averaged 15.0 rebounds per game!

Given all these numbers, it is obvious that the most crucial quarter in the whole game should be dominated by these four Bolts warriors plus a role player. Apparently that is not happening. We still see some lousy substitution and questionable rotation in the pivotal canto.

Let’s take the jump for full game notes and player evaluations at a fourth-grade reading level.

Against the Ginebra Kings, the Bolts defended decently for three quarters until the lame fourth quarter. The guards had a bit of trouble chasing Caguiao around the perimeter and the frontline did a lousy job staying patient and contesting Curtis Stinson’s number of ball fakes. All the while, Taulava was given limited minutes to give Eric Menk all he can handle under the paint.

There were not enough plays designed in the fourth canto collapse to deter penetrators and contest those who dared attack the rim. More importantly, there were not enough active hands and deflected passes as well, especially from the second unit. The Ginebra Kings legitimately had an easy time scoring 25 points in that quarter alone.

Against the BMeg Llamados, the Bolts didn't pick and roll as much as you'd expect (and prefer), but utilized a lot of drive-and-kick to find open three-pointers, which were not connecting. In the first half, the ball movement came and went and the offense looked pretty crap, resulting in a measly 14-point output in the 2nd quarter.

Everyone was expecting the Bolts to pick everything up in the 2nd half (particularly the latter portion) , but it was simultaneously troublesome and unnerving. It was troublesome in that Nelbert Omolon and his backcourt helpers couldn't keep track of James Yap wiggling into the paint for easy lay-ins. Omolon played him way too tightly, and guys like Oguchi got flat-footed when Yap gathered to attack. After a quick start to the fourth quarter on the defensive end, the Bolts offense looked a bit sluggish and careless, and the ball movement got even worse.

Therein lay the unnerving part, though. With the offense stumbling, Taulava put the team’s defense on his glistening, chiseled shoulders and bullied his way to 17 rebounds (7 offensive). It's been a long time since Taulava flexed his muscles this way. Taulava gave everyone a preview of that ability, but why did we see limited minutes from him? There came a time when tossing Taulava the rock and letting him operate in traffic was the only option, and he willed his way to the rim and to the line. His shots failed him, but it was good stuff.

Taulava should be the first player considered in the pivotal quarter. Save for weird bout of point-center ambition that did not end well, Taulava is more disruptive on defense that Mark isip or Reynel Hugnatan can ever imagine.

If you were coach Ryan Gregorio, would you have put the starters, especially Taulava, in to close the game, or were you happy with Isip and Hugnatan misusing the shot clock, missing free throws, and waiting too long to give fouls? Not to sway you or anything.

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