When the much beloved Barangay Ginebra San Miguel reeled off two good wins to open the Philippine Cup, people were like “Sooobraaang lakazz ng Ginebra, men. They’re fun to watch. They’re fast. They’re very athletic.” The length and speed at the wings and at the power forward spot was top rate dog food for the stud of a PG they just acquired in L.A. Tenorio. Mark Caguioa was sexier and more defined than ever — his aura brimming with a “You can’t touch us” kind of a vibe.
But then they lose four straight, unluckily running into teams that had players who went absolutely bonkers on them. They looked like a lost inter-barangay team against Alaska — a team that seemed high on the Calvin Abueva drug. They played well but lost to a Petron team that was as desperate as the Miami Heat in Game 6 of the ECF last June. In that game, Arwind Santos was as focused and as menacing as LeBron was in That Game 6. Clifford Hodge outhustled, outplayed, and outspunked their slew of athletic big men. And they lost to a team they had no business of losing to, to a team they were at least a tier and a half better — Ronald Tubid and the Barako Bull.
SO WHAT’S UP WITH THE 4-GAME LOSING SKID?
Rebounding isn’t a problem for them. In fact, it’s a major strength. Despite being a very small team, their athleticism at all positions makes up for the lack of size. In their losing streak, they outrebounded their opponents by an average margin of 7 rebounds a game. They inflicted most of that damage on the offensive glass as they hauled down 7 more offensive caroms than their opponents in that stretch.
BGS gave up 93ppg in their losing streak. Although that may seem low especially compared to all the scoring we see from the NBA these days, allowing your opponent to score that many points in the PBA is just mediocre; it’s definitely not slow clap-worthy (TNT scores 93.33ppg on the average. Meralco is the highest-scoring offense with a 97.4ppg clip while Air 21 if the most futile team with an average of 86ppg).
But if you check out the other side of the ball, that’s where you’ll see the Barangay’s problem. BGS’s recent inefficiency on offense has been flat out pathetic. During the skid, they averaged 83.5ppg on a head-shaking shooting clip of 38.2%. Siot Tanquincen’s squad turned the ball over 17 times a game (5 TO’s per game more than their opponents).
Much of Ginebra’s futility on offense can be credited to the following: (a) LA is brand new to the team; (b) they practically have four new players in LA, Ellis, Jensen, and Rico Maierhoffer who play significant roles in the O; (c) and most importantly, the team’s new plan to run their foes off the floor has essentially backfired, resulting to the team committing significantly more turnovers than they’d prefer.
That’s why I think that Ginebra’s fans should be calm as they are right now. They’re a very smart bunch. I think they know that BGS’s struggles are caused by the fact that a lot about the team is new. Mark Caguioa and LA Tenorio are still on the “nagkakapaan pa” stage. Chris Ellis and Keith Jensen are slowly finding out that they cannot just jump over everyone. The young ones are realizing how important the outside shot is in the pros.
Don’t you guys worry. Eventually, LA will know where Caguioa likes to get the ball. There will come a time that just a Tenorio wink will trigger alley-oops for Maierhoffer, Jensen, and Ellis. Tenorio will figure out how much Ababou likes corner threes, or that Allein Maliksi cuts well to the basket.
But fans should also temper their expectations. Odds point to the Barangay not winning the championship this conference or not even getting to the Finals.
But eventually they will get it — just not this conference — and when they do everyone will be at their fastbreaking-mercy!
Photos c/o PBA.ph and InterAKTV