The View From the Armchair: Game 11 vs FEU
The Green Archers failed to play their usual game last Saturday and went down to the fired-up FEU Tamaraws, 75-83 at the Philsports Arena. Except for the first quarter which ended in a 14-all tie, the Archers were outscored in the last three quarters, 18-23 (Q2), 15-17 (Q3), and 28-29 (Q4). The defense was inconsistent, with the Archers allowing the tams to tally 83 points. This represented the highest score of a La Salle opponent so far this UAAP season.
The game saw the return of Simon after he missed a few games due to injury. His presence failed to lift the Archers as mainstay JV was recovering from an illness he suffered that week. Perhaps realizing that the Archers were not at full strength, the tall and athletic Tams forced a fast-paced game in a effort to tire out the Archers. This forced Coach Franz to adopt an unusual rotation pattern, often substituting his guard line in an effort to conserve their energy for the end game. He also played small ball for extended periods of time to prevent match up problems with Tams, with Rico, James, Maui, Joshua, and Peejay manning the front line. As a result, the Archers’ centers played sparingly, with Ferdinand logging only 7 minutes mostly in the first quarter and JWalsh not able to enter the game at all.
The Archers uncharacteristically opened the door for the Tams in the last quarter, turning the ball over in successive plays which the Tams converted into quick baskets. This proved the turning point of the game, giving the Tams enough of a margin that could not be surmounted by the Archers’ last ditch rally.
The Archers’ offensive machinery performed roughly according to their season averages over the first 10 games. The point production was only 2 below their 10-game average of 77.4. From the 3point area, the Archers hit 7/20 for 35%, roughly about their average, while they made 21/45 2point attempts for 46.7%, slightly better than the season average of 42%. If the Archers made their free throws, they could have kept the game close at the end, because they missed 8 out of the 20 tries at the foul line. JV carried the brunt of the offensive, hitting 3/8 3pointers and 3/4 on field goals for 15 points. Rico actually topped the scoring with 18 points, but some of his fgs came during garbage time. James was also relatively successful on offense, making 1/2 treys and 5/11 fgs. LA scored two quick 3pointers in the first quarter, but was silent offensively thereafter. Peejay tallied only 7 points, below the 9 point “benchmark” that the tv sportscasters had set as the minimum he must score if La Salle was to win.
It was on defense that the Archers underperformed. Prior to the game, the Archers had limited their competition to 67.2 points per game, but in this game allowed FEU to score 83, 16 over the average of La Salle opponents.
With JV and Simon coming out of sick bay, FEU exploited the temporary weakness of the La Salle guard line, as Tamaraw guards Fernandez and Barroca repeatedly found the bottom of the net. Fernandez strung 8 straight points highlighted by 2 triples to allow FEU to grab the driver’s seat in the first half, and FEU pg Barroca played his career game, exploding for 26 points against all his defenders and orchestrating the Tamaraw offensive together with Knuttel. The FEU guards repeatedly attacked the perimeter defense through dribble penetrations, and when the secondary defender would slide over, dished to a waiting teammate under the basket or at the wings for an open shot. This success at cracking the Archer defense allowed FEU to shoot a high 56.5% from the field while connecting on 4/12 from 3point territory. FEU definitely played a good game, and it’s difficult to hold down a team that is as hot as FEU was last weekend. This game also showed that the Archer perimeter defense can be breached by good dribblers and off-the-ball movement by the wingmen. The 29 fouls called on the Archers were translated into 29 free throw attempts by FEU, of which they made 19.
The Archers forced FEU to turn over the ball 23 times, but also committed 22 of their own, effectively negating the edge that the Archers usually have over their opponents. The 22 turnovers is 6 over their per-game average of 16. Turnovers caused by the pesky La Salle defenders usually is a source of quick points, but their unusually high turnover rate was used by the Tams to score points of their own. Playing small ball, the Archers were outrebounded by FEU 33-38. Rico pulled down 13 rebounds, helped by Maui who had 6 of his own. Despite being out of shape, JV showcased his all-around game with 4 rebounds and 4 assists. The relative weakness of the guard line resulted in a below average assist total of only 12 against their average of 15.5 per game.
The Rookie Watch
As usual, Maui logged the most minutes with 24 and was also the leading rookie scorer with 8 on 3/5 fgs and 2/2 fts aside from his 6 rebounds. However Maui also committed 5 turnovers due to the extremely physical defense played on him by the taller and heftier FEU frontline. LA saw action for only 11 minutes, mostly in the first half, pulled down 3 rebounds, dished out 2 assists, stole the ball once, and converted all of his 3point attempts but was 0/2 from close range. Joshua played 10 minutes and was effective on offense, nailing 2/3 of his field goals, but his inexperience showed against the more mature Tamaraw frontliners. Hyram was fielded in for 6 minutes primarily for ball handling duties, and Jovet saw action for 4 minutes but did not score.
What needs work
The ailing Archer guard corps will have to get healthy soon if the Archers are to be competitive in the remaining elimination round games against UST, Adamson, and Ateneo. They are primarily responsible for ball handling and distribution, calling the plays, and keeping the offensive machinery working smoothly. Last Saturday, they were sometimes a half-step slower than the FEU guards, and FEU took advantage of this to penetrate into the secondary defense area for easy passes to open Tams under the goal or on the wings. In the fourth quarter, on certain plays, the Tams simply gave the ball to Barroca to create for himself, and he responded by scoring 13 in that decisive stretch. The Archers will need to get their defensive focus back, because they cannot allow opponents to score 83 points and hope to win via a shootout.
Our inside presence also has to be addressed. Against a team with no dominant centers (Cervantes and Ramos like to play the perimeter), the Archers could not establish an inside game. Without the consistent inside threat, the Tams were able to extend their defense and made it difficult for our outside shooters to find the space and time to make their shots. One notable area that the Archers must watch out for is their tendency to commit a travelling violation when faking prior to a drive. They committed several such miscues at various times which tended to stall whatever momentum they were trying to build up during the repeated rallies. The Rico alley-oop play should be used judiciously if ever, because other teams have players who can match Rico’s jumping ability and he tends to land with the ball instead of taking the attempt.
The Archers offensive machinery will usually deliver their current average of 77 points per game. However, our perimeter shooters will have to be more consistent and confident. JV is a marked man wherever he is on the floor, so Bader and Peejay will have to step up and make their shots count. James continues to be arguably the best one-on-one operator in the league, but will have to take care of the ball. LA’s shotmaking ability can take some of the load from JV, but he will have to make his shots consistently.
Next game: vs UST (4pm Thursday, Aug 28 at the Araneta Coliseum)
UST is coming off a rousing win over NU, and will come into the game with some confidence. They pose the same kind of threat that FEU had, with tall, agile, athletic wingmen (Canlas, Allera, Mirza, Ababou) who can light it up from 3point area or dribble and slash. Plus they have reigning MVP Jervy Cruz, Gile, and Taylor in the middle. Their ability to hit it from outside can open up the middle for Cruz and company.
Another concern is the absence of Coach Franz for the next 2-3 games as he coaches the national youth team in the ongoing FIBA-Asia youth tournament in Tehran. Coach Jack will handle the team in his absence.
Come and cheer the Archers against UST – they’ll need our support. We’ll also try to update the game scoreboard with running updates as the game progresses.
KEEP THE FAITH!