The View From the Armchair – Game 6 vs ADU

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con·sist·ent/kənˈsistənt/Adjective –  (of a person, behavior, or process) Unchanging in achievement or effect over a period of time.

Depending on how you look at it, the Green Archers were either consistent, or inconsistent as they fell to the veteran Adamson Falcons, 58-66 last Sunday in a difficult-to-take loss that raised concerns about their ability to compete with the elite teams. The loss prevented the Archers from pulling ahead in the tightening chase for the playoffs with their 3rd loss against as many wins.

If you take the view that the Archers were consistent, you’d be right. The loss was the 3rd to an acknowledged top-tier team, while they had previously dominated teams ranked below them in the 3 victories. As in the losses to Ateneo and FEU, the opponent’s guards were able to get off against our defense, and in those losses, that guard was the top scorer for the opposing team. The Archers also allowed Adamson to continue to use to its traditional strengths, great guard play and good outside shooting, to great effect against us.

How about our team being inconsistent? You’d be right, too. They failed to sustain that sweet-shooting streak against UE, failing to come close to their good shooting marks in field goal percentage, 3point shooting, and free throw accuracy. Some attribute the loss to our inability to make the free throws, as we missed more than half, missing 14 while the losing margin was only 8 points. And lastly, ugly ball made its re-appearance after a 1-game hiatus, resulting in lots of turnovers early which allowed Adamson to seize the momentum it never relinquished.

Well, what’s it to be? Consistent or inconsistent? Wait a minute. Why can’t you make up your mind?

An unsavory streak of sorts

And the streak continues. The Falcons fielded an essentially intact lineup from last year, and were among the consensus favorites for the playoffs. Adamson swept us last year, hopes were high that this edition of the Archers would find a way to reverse the trend. No such luck. Using the same weapons as last year, Coach Austria again found a way to beat us. Of course, he had assistant coach Luck on his bench.

I’m tired of seeing the same results replay every time we play Adamson, so I’m giving away my seat in the replay. Anyone interested in my version of Deja vu? Slightly used, only going on its second year.

What went wrong

One of the biggest items – assuming Adamson would have a recurrence of the same outside shooting problems that befell them against NU. NU went zone in the last few minutes of their game, and won in the endgame when the Falcon shooters failed to hit from the outside. The Archers tried the same tactic in the first quarter, and Adamson showed that they had done their homework. The zone was easily broken by overload plays and good, crisp perimeter passing that found the open spots in our zone.

Adamson’s early success rattled the Archers into eight (yes, eight) turnovers right in the first 10 minutes, gifting the Falcons with 13 points of turnovers. That’s exactly what we scored in the first quarter. The early Adamson spurt saw them take an early 15-point lead that we never managed to surmount. Lester Alvarez and Janus Lozada did the most damage, combining for 15 points that saw the 2 outscore our team in the first period.

The Archers managed to steady their nerves somewhat in the second period, keeping turnovers down to 2 but fell farther behind as their struggles from the field continued while Adamson’s flawless game went on unhindered. The turnover stats at the half were 10-0. Funny, but an integral part of the Archers’ game is forcing opponents into turnovers so we get easy points. We got a dose of our own medicine.

The officiating will obviously be roundly criticized, particularly those successive fouls called on us after we had rallied to close in at 35-39. That atrocious call on Luigi dela Paz gifted Adamson with 2 fts, and those momentum-breaking calls of the referees killed our rally much better than anything Adamson did. Or, our team got temporarily discombobulated by the calls and lost their composure.

Much as we’d like, we can’t pin the blame on officiating. We have to get the stops. We have to put the ball in the bucket. We have to force the opponent to play our game. If we do all these more than the opponents can, we win. It’s still in our hands. Let’s not pass the buck.

Our usual gunners were muzzled into ineffectiveness. Luigi dela Paz managed only 4 points, the same output of Oda Tampus, while LA Revilla only tallied 2 points. It’s a pity that all of them had an off day at the same time. Or just maybe Adamson geared up specifically to stop them.

I don’t know if jitters got the better of our team, but we missed 3 open layups in the last minute, allowing NU to keep us at bay. Maybe it was the pressure of playing catch-up the entire game, or the extremely poor officiating that threw off our timing, but the Archers folded in crunch time. This was our first game which was decided only in the last minute, and our team wasn’t able to get its act together enough. Or maybe Lady Luck played like the possession arrow, but got stuck in Adamson’s direction.

And the erratic performance at the foul line persisted. Only 9 out of 23 tries. 39% at the stripe, versus 44% from the 2-point region. Atrocious any way you look at it. We lost by only 8 points, while we gave away 14 points. I know we should be charitable, but maybe not in this particular setting.

Our defense was a bit of a letdown, particularly on the perimeter. Adamson nailed 9 out of their 20 tries from 3-point land, some of them backbreakers with the shot clock winding down. Maybe luck played a hand, maybe not. But the Adamson gunners’ early shooting success from the outside gave them the confidence to hoist those long treys, and if you throw up that many with a bit of confidence, some will go in. The good shooting (which we knew they were capable of) showed that NU’s success with the zone was in fact a fluke, and we fell into the trap of assuming that Adamson wouldn’t shoot well. Boy were we wrong.

Our press failed to faze the Falcons, and the zero first half turnovers says it all. Didn’t work. On the other hand, the Falcon press break worked wonders, and it was easy to see that they had prepared well for whatever we threw at them in their backcourt. We were scouted well. Maybe our defense came to life in the 2nd half, but defense has to be on for the entire 40 minutes, otherwise we’re in trouble when our shots don’t go in, like last Sunday.

It’s kind of a puzzler how Adamson got away with using the same formula against us today that they used so successfully last year. You’d think that after all those losses, we’d have figured out how to get them off their game. If we’re erratic in some areas, at least we’re terribly consistent when we play Adamson – we allow them to do what they want to us.

What went right

Norbert Torres finally had a good game, scoring 14 points in 20 minutes to go with 5 boards and 2 blocks. He looked lost at the start, but finally found his bearings and used his height and bulk to operate successfully inside the paint, except when he ran into Adamson’s double team which was expressly designed to be executed whenever he attempted to dribble into the paint.

Yutien was again the epitome of efficiency on offense, making all of his 5 field goal attempts and sinking his only foul shot. He also was the best rebounder with 9. Maui was silently effective again, defending against the very physical Adamson frontline and even giving a beautiful touch pass assist to Norbert under the basket.

Finally, the 4th quarter also showed that the team has the ability to fight back from adversity. The Archers weathered the momentary setback in the 3rd quarter when the referees called those momentum-breaking fouls with the deficit down to just 4.  They came roaring back in the last 2 minutes, and if not for those @#%^!#() pointblank misses, the outcome might have been different. So they proved that they have what it takes to rattle a veteran Adamson team, and if they can play that consistently for the entire 40 minutes instead of only for stretches, we’ll make it to the playoffs for sure. Not many teams can withstand that kind of pressure. If the Archers can only sustain it for 4 quarters, we’ll be fine.

Looking forward

We close off the first round against UST on Thursday. The Tigers are also attempting to get back into the final 4. This game is critical to our chances, because we need all the wins we can get from here on, what with the surprising victories of UP and UE last week. At this time, all teams have a mathematical chance of making the playoffs, even UE. We wasted the golden opportunity to gain a tie for second place, and now we’re in a honest-to-goodness scrum to stay in the top 4.

After all that training, it’s now time for the team to apply everything they’ve learned. The season’s almost half over, and if they can’t make it work in the remaining games, it’ll be another long year for us.

On the bright side, our team brought Adamson to the brink, and the game tilted in their favor only with a bit of luck on their side. We went eyeball-to-eyeball with them, and we blinked this game. I don’t think we’ll do it again. I don’t mind our team being inconsistent that way. Despite the loss, I think we’re in good shape to make the playoffs, just as long as the team applies the lessons they learned in the coming games. And I have this niggling feeling that they’ll prove their critics wrong.

Keep the faith!

 

And from my friend Proud Archer:

Bad free throws, bad breaks, bad calls.  Of the three, only one is controllable.  The free throws.  We cannot blame the referees, no matter how bad the calls were (they were bad though in this game). We have to adjust to those calls and play on accrodingly.   We cannot blame the breaks of the game as this is more often evens out during the course of all games.  But Bad FREE THROW SHOOTING is no longer a joke. 
Despite the free throw debacle, we were in the game up to the last second.  Bad breaks dictated that we would eventually not catch up with Adamson.  Missed lay-ups are part of the game.  Those are bad breaks.  I do not blame the players for that.  Sure Revilla was a non-factor during this game.  Remember Adamason has the defensive personnel to stay with scorers like Revilla.  Remember that they stopped Kiefer Ravena.  Sure I think the coaching staff made a mistake by not fielding back Van Opstal when Manyara and Brondial fouled out.  But even with those botched lay-ups, coaching inaccuracies, and bad calls, we still SHOULD have won this game.  Malas lang sa breaks. 

But unless we address the free throw shooting problem, we’re done for.  Remember that at the start of the tournament, I said that this is the ONLY problem we have with this team.  We lost by 6, we missed thirteen.  Do the math.  As it is, instead of solo second, we are now locked in a 4 to 5 way battle with other teams. for the nos. 2 to 4 slot.  The aim is No. 2.  Kiss No. 1 goodbye and concede that to Ateneo.  We have to aim for No. 2 and hope we beat Ateneo in the second round to compete. 

Still early Archers.  The problem can still be addressed.  ANIMO. 


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