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The View From the Armchair – Game 7 vs UST

Almost but not quite. Another game that almost got away. Another second half meltdown of potentially catastrophic proportions which highlighted the head-scratching game-time extremes that the Green Archers have shown this season. It could be called a tale of two halves. Another Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde episode. A cardiovascular exercise aka a stress test DLSU style. Deja vu. Again.

The Green Archers almost gave another game away, blowing a large 23-point first half lead before eking out a nail-biting 74-71 victory over UST to settle into 4th place at the end of the first round, behind Ateneo (7-0), Adamson (5-2), and FEU (4-3). The victory was almost an exact duplicate of the close shave against NU, where they managed an epic 2-point third quarter before recovering to win a bit comfortably. This time they really flirted with disaster, allowing UST to come within a hairline in the last minute before Oda Tampus bailed us out.

After the last game, I wrote about consistency and inconsistency. We got another dose of the same.

A sterling first-half performance saw us enter the half with a 22-point lead, which conjured up visions of a century score for the first time this season. The Archers played extremely well on offense and throttled the Tigers with a suffocating defense. Then the 3rd quarter happened, and the Archer game turned ugly, with just 7 points. UST got 17. Then the 4th rolled around, and UST turned in one of the highest scoring quarters this year – 27 points. Rather, we allowed them to score 27, the same number of points that they scored in the first half.

The first half was 49-27 in our favor. The second was 25-44 for UST. Talk about inconsistency. We did the same thing against NU, whupping them in the first half and allowing them to return the favor in the second. Is that consistent or what?

What went wrong

Our team got rattled. By the injuries suffered by Simon and Luigi. By the physical defense UST employed. By the zone defense that they threw up in the last 2 quarters.

Yutien surprisingly saw little action, playing only 7 minutes and contributing only 1 rebound. Fellow frontliner Jovet Mendoza also was used sparingly, 9 minutes. For the second straight game, erstwhile team top scorer LA Revilla was limited to just 2 points before he fouled out in the closing minutes, but he did assist on 8 of our shots.

Another misfiring Archer was Sam Marata, who was only 2/15 from the field, in the process hoisting 10 attempts from afar but making only 1. That kind of perimeter inaccuracy will not help us break any zone defenses. Sam is one of the better shooters from long distance in the league, so it’s a question why he isn’t making more of his shots. Maybe his attempt to develop an in-between game has affected his confidence in taking those catch-and-shoot attempts he used to sink on a regular basis. Now he hesitates or fakes when he gets the ball outside instead of launching those treys in automatic mode.

Arnold Van Opstal again was inserted in the starting lineup, scored the first 2 baskets, but otherwise failed to make any sort of impact with only 2 rebounds, which is disappointing for the tallest player on our lineup. His inexperience showed in his tendency to foul unnecessarily, negating his size advantage over the smaller Tigers as he fouled out after playing only 7 minutes. In contrast, his counterpart center Karim Abdul was able to capitalize on his size advantage against us, as he topscored for UST with 21 points to go with 11 rebounds.

Once again, our perimeter defense allowed an opposing guard to score heavily from the outside, former DLSZ stalward Jeric Fortuna managing 20 points on 2/5 from the 3-point area before he exited with cramps late in the game. The top tier teams all have good shooting guards: Ateneo has Monfort, Ravena and Long, Adamson has Alvarez, Canada, and Nuyles, and FEU has Garcia and Romeo. We can’t allow the opponents to open up the interior by hitting their outside shots, not if we want to preserve the integrity of the pressure defense.

What went right

Norbert followed up a good game against Adamson with a better game against UST. He contributed in all areas of the game, scoring 21 points, 8 rebounds, 5 blocks, perfect on his 5 free throws, and making 8 out of 12 of his field goal attempts.

The LA Revilla – Norbert Torres connection was on display against UST, Norbert moving well away from the ball and LA getting it to him in prime scoring position in the paint. Oda Tampus recovered from a poor showing against Adamson with 14 points on efficient 6/12 shooting from the field while pulling down 8 rebounds. Maui was also offensively active early in the game, ending up with 10 points, while contributing his usual intangibles which don’t appear in the stats. In particular, we saw another Maui touch pass again to Norbert for an easy score under the goal.

Puzzling

The playing time distribution showed that the Archers played mostly small ball against UST. Norbert played the most minutes of any Archer with 31, and Maui was on the floor for 25 minutes, as these two forwards combined for over a fourth of the total available minutes. Our other forwards Yutien (7), Jovet (9), Arnold (7) played less minutes in total than either Maui or Norbert. Last season’s defensive revelation Papot Paredes again failed to see action.

Ah, the zone. The kryptonite of the Green Archers. But isn’t kryptonite also green? So why is the zone an almost unsolvable puzzle for the Archers? Why does our team seem to hit a mental block when they see a zone in the second half? In some games, they were able to easily find the creases in the opponents’ zone through good passing, but for some reason, they get zone-related amnesia in the last 20 minutes and settle almost exclusively for outside jumpers, most of which they miss. Consistently. In the 3rd quarter. Well, in the coming games against us, expect that the other teams can also be consistent – more zones against us in the second round. Have the coaches devised the antidote? Let’s see on Sunday.

The Archers have shown a fast-paced, slick, high-energy game that can overwhelm the opponents, but they have also shown an alarming tendency to lose their composure after they build a large margin, then the opponents start exerting some pressure in an effort to get back in the game. They get rattled, lose their confidence, and blow sizeable leads. This shows that the mental aspect of the Archers’ game may still be fragile at this point. And that’s dangerous, since pressure will increase in the second round where every game will count. They need that mental stability in crunch time from here on.

Looking forward

Because of our win over the Tigers, we get an early crack against Adamson. After our painful and unlucky loss last week, it’s almost critical that we win this game: 1) to prove we can beat the top teams, and 2) we need to break the dominance of Adamson.

As of this writing, it’s unclear whether Simon or Luigi will be able to play on Sunday. So if we assume the worst case scenario, we’ll miss our best perimeter shooter and our team captain who excels in defense. We can’t use their possible absence as an excuse – this team must be able to overcome adversity if it hopes to be crowned as champions. At this stage, there are no more excuses for mediocrity – and this game against the Falcons will probably be the litmus test of our chances. We win, and we can parlay this momentum to place well in the F4; we lose, and our streak of futility against the good teams continues.

Say what you want, but the Archers found a way to win, ugly as it was. They pulled it all together and showed that they wanted the win more. 3 points, 1 point, no matter what the margin was. We still got another 1 in the win column. There are no bonus points for style or degree of difficulty. That’s only in gymnastics. The Archers got it done, when it counted. At the end of the game.  So I think we’ll see the Archers turn the corner on Sunday.

Keep the faith!

 

My friend Proud Archer weighed in with his view of the game:

Polo or basketball????? 

This is the identity crisis our present team is developing its personality into.  In Polo, correct me if I am wrong, there are three chukkers in one game.  And with each chucker,  believe it or not, three different horses are used by one player.  The First Horse (colored Green), seems to be the strongest for the Archers this season.  It actually wills it’s rider to score the winning points right in the first chucker.  The Second Horse playing in the second chukker, (colored Yellow), seems to be a mistreated animal and as such exhibits FEAR, and INDECISION, whenever bumped by another horse (thus the color).  The Third horse (colored red), sees the blood of the Second horse, and suddenly exhibits a fight back  that will curl your blood and transfer the FEAR and INDECSION to the opposing team. 

WE HAVE TO GET RID OF THAT SECOND HORSE!!!!!!!!  THE YELLOW ONE!!!!!!!!  We are NOT mistreated animals.  We are GREEN ARCHERS.  Why FEAR a big lead?  Why do we exhibity FEAR and INDECISION when that big lead dwindles down????  We should EXPECT that from the opposing team becasue we didn’t KILL them.  We just wounded their pride.  Thus, they come out STRONGER in the second half.  EXPECT THAT. 

From a basketball standpoint, some key factors were involved in the collapse: 

First, Simon Atkins went down because of a “freight train of an elbow” from Karim Abdul.  We should review the tapes and request for sanctions to suspend this player.  He even went after the CROWD if not for Jeric Fortuna’s intervention. 

Second.  OUR FREE THROW SHOOTING.  In this game, we took less free throws as it was a free wheeler of a game, typical UST basketball.  From my count, we missed eight.  Ironically, a crucial moment in the game that saved us was Norbert Torres canning two free throws when we were up by only 1, I think. 

Third, because of our “easy” first half, L.A. Revilla never really got into game groove.  To go deep into the playoffs, we need LA to be our catalyst (passing, scoring, rebounding, assisting).  He HAS to do it.  He is our LEADER.  Thus, in the second half, L.A. was practically a non-factor.  Ironically again, a crucial point in the game was one of his floaters down the middle, and his steady presence and court generalship, when he concentrated on it. 

Fourth, AND MOST IMPORTANTLY, CONCENTRATION AND HEART!!!!!!!!  Prime example of that was Marata’s “stroll in the park” lay-up, which LA Revilla provided a screen for him and the only man behind Revilla was Jeric Fortuna.  Somebody should tell Sam that his last miss which rimmed off in the last game against Adamson was part of the breaks of the game and nobody faulted him for that.  This lay-up was HIS FAULT.  It could have given us a 10 point lead and broke UST’s back right there and then.  The following UST play was a three pointer by Jeric Teng.  Result:  Lead down to FOUR with a lot of pressure on us. 

The saving plays in this game?  The two free throws of Norbert, the floater of L.A., the two three point bombs of De La Paz (before being Charlie horsed by Camus, a rugged play but no harm intended), AND, the BIG REBOUND and two free throw makes of ODA TAMPUS (again ironically after missing two free throws).  THAT is the HEART PLAY I am looking for in our team.  Oda missed two free throws, NEVER gave up, WILLED himself to get the rebound (reminded me of T.Y. Tang’s rebound in 2007.  Coincidentally, he was there watching), and canned the two crucial free throws. 

Even in the game of polo guys, that SECOND HORSE would have been put of to pasture.  If we don’t want to be “pasteurized” or boiled like milk this season, we better put thing together for 40 minutes.  Let’s not cram our basketball in the first 20 minutes please.  We CANNOT win it in the first half.  Coaches, PLEASE do your jobs and guide our team accordingly. 

ANIMO!!!!!!!