This appears on the PBA website.
by rick olivares pic by nuki sabio
Last Wednesday’s PBA matches saw the endgame go down to a couple of coaching decisions that told on the results.
The first match of the double header saw Rain or Shine repulse a late rally by the Meralco Bolts, 96-79.
With import Brian Butch suffering from a malady that left him severely weakened (he was retching on the bench and needed help in walking to an ambulance to go to the hospital), it looked like the Bolts were goners. But behind the superb efforts of Jared Dillinger and Gary David, they brought down what was once a double-digit lead down to four.
Butch tried to make a game of it but was clearly not himself. In spite of it, the Elasto Painters double-teamed him at every opportunity to force him to pass out. It was Butch’s cross-court pass to David who was lurking on the right corner pocket for a three that ignited Meralco’s rally. But when Butch could not move much, James Sena was sent in leaving coach Ryan Gregorio with a small lineup.
The small ball tactics worked until RoS counterpart Yeng Guiao sent Beau Belga back to the fray. The Elasto Painters began to pound it inside with Alex McLean scoring on an alley-oop among others. The game was McLean’s swansong as he was set to be replaced for the rest of the club’s Commissioner’s Cup campaign.
Mysteriously, I wondered why go to a small line-up? Why not send back in Rabeh Al-Hussaini or even Danny Ildefonso? On three consecutive possessions, the Bolts didn’t even get a shot off.
Gregorio told me that he felt that his other players weren’t getting the job done and that he opted to go with his smaller lineup that at least gave him quickness.
Wow. If that isn’t an indictment of his centers’ play then I don’t know what is. Furthermore, will there be any changes to this lineup after this conference?
If you root for Meralco, you can only imagine what if Butch was healthy. In his weakened state and playing “only” 30 minutes, the White Mamba scored 11 points and pulled down 13 rebounds (while adding two assists, one steal, and two blocks).
In the second match, Barangay Ginebra San Miguel couldn’t get into a proper rhythm as the rising Air21 Express got stellar performances not only from their import Wes Witherspoon but the local crew.
Coach Juno Sauler went with Japeth Aguilar, Billy Mamaril, Chris Ellis, Josh Urbiztondo, and Jayjay Helterbrand in their final six minutes of play. They had their chances as Air21 missed three free throws that could have iced the match for them with seconds to play. But Aguilar failed to secure a defensive rebound that went out for the Express and led to one of two free throws by Witherspoon.
Then with a chance to tie the match, Sauler made two changes to the five on the floor for their last play with Air21 up, 97-95. He sent in Mac Baracael and import Leon Rodgers who was bench for part of the third quarter and nearly the entire fourth. The inbound went to Rodgers who drove hard but missed on an off balanced drive.
Why bring in a player who was cold up to that point? The drive was well guarded and Rodgers didn’t seem too confident in taking that shot.
On another note, the Air21-Ginebra tussle was – for trivia buffs here – the first match between the last two coaches to lead De La Salle to a UAAP championship. Franz Pumaren has done an excellent job with the Express this season after a tough maiden campaign at the helm.
Maclean concluded his short PBA stint with a win while Rodgers (who is rumored to be on his way out with dissatisfaction from his teammates over his taking too many shots) picked up a loss. That is sour graping for me. Isn’t that what you want – for an import to pick the team up when it isn’t doing well?
When a team losses everyone nitpicks.