The View From the Armchair – Game 11 vs ADMU

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0-4. That’s the 2nd round record of the Green Archers after they fell to Ateneo, 62-79 last Sunday.

4-7. That’s the current record of the team.

7-7. The best-case record of the team after two rounds. That’s also the minimum that’s needed to even tie for the last spot in the playoffs.

3-0. Sweep the last 3 games against UP, FEU, and NU if they ever hope to get a tie UST, while hoping that UST obliges us by crashing and burning in their last 3 games. Both scenarios are a bit farfetched, our winning our last 3 games the more remote of the two.

So what happened against Ateneo?

Nada. Zilch. Nothing. Zero. We lost the game via rout, this being the biggest losing margin to-date this season. We lost all 4 quarters, although we were fairly competitive in the first half, falling behind by only 5 points after 10 minutes. Not very good, but not very bad either.

The team’s performance gave supporters some false hopes that the second half would see the team overcome the Blue Eagles’ perceived dominance.

C’mon guys, haven’t we learned anything after watching 10 games so far? We’ve always come to expect that the opposing coaches will use the halftime break to analyze what we’re doing, and come up with the necessary changes in their game plan, while our coaches will continue to push what they started with. Predictable. Unable to adjust. So the second half began, following exactly this scenario. The Blue Eagles pounced, we fell behind double digits, and never recovered.

The first half performance allowed the Blue Eagles to reach their comfort level because our lack of any surprises, and once they got into their preferred game groove, it would have taken an exceptional effort and extraordinarily great game for us to beat them. Both of which were beyond the capabilities of our players last Sunday.

Other previously-observed trends continued as well.  There seemed to be a 4-point, 5-minute, 1-turnover rule this year on the Archer bench. A player can expect to be substituted if any of the 3 things just mentioned occur. Once an Archer scores 4 points or more, the assumption is that the effort must have tired out the Archer who’s getting hot, so he gets to rest on the bench. Also, around 5 minutes seems to be the max for any player to be on the floor, apparently for the same reason. Another apparent rule is the 1-2 turnover rule – if a player commits an error or two, the coaches assume that the errors are due to fatigue or the player’s really off, and he likewise gets pulled, regardless of whether or not the net effect of his presence is positive for the team.

The end result? Our players never really get into a rhythm, rarely get hot, are afraid to make mistakes, and we fall farther and farther behind as our players become increasingly uncertain, confused, and frustrated. Instead of being able to settle the players down, the coaches turned to a revolving door tactic in a desperate attempt to find someone who would click. Eleven (yes, 11!) players logged double digit minutes, with 13 Archers seeing action. Only Jovet (4 minutes) and Fonso (1 minute) saw very little action. Surprisingly, Sara and Reyes were not fielded in together with the kitchen sink. This late in the season, our rotation patterns are still incomprehensible.

In comparison, 9 of the Blue Eagles saw double digit action, with the second and third stringers seeing more action in the second half, most of which was actually garbage time.

Our descent in the rebounding area continued as we lost another battle of the boards, 38-43. There is also something seriously wrong when our top rebounders are the smallest players – LA and Simon pulled down 6 apiece, both of them pulling down more than the combined total of  our two tallest players AVO (2) and Torres (3). We did get 14 offensive rebounds, but that’s because we missed so many close-in shots.

Our shooting was way off again, from afar (2/18), from the foul line (10/22!!!), and from close-in with all those missed layups and follow ups.

Free throws continued to be the bane of the team. Again, our bigs managed to fish so many fouls, but missed 2/3 of their free throws, making only 3/9. Their terrible performance from the foul line continued for the nth game in a row. Somewhere, somehow, their skills need to be developed in so many areas.

Our defense was mostly vapor in the second half. Our press was again easily broken, our perimeter defenses easily penetrated by the Ateneo dribblers, and that infamous drive and dish worked so well in drawing our secondary defenses to the penetrator, who would then pass to an open teammate for an open jumper. Worked so well. Time and again. Since last year. Unfortunately. And we had no answer. Again.

Which brings up the question – why are the other teams so successful in penetrating our defenses? A combination of effective screens, good positioning, passing, and I submit, the footwork and poor lateral movement of our players. Time and again, good ballhandlers have managed to turn the corner on our players, forcing our secondary defenders to commit, leaving their men open. We have managed to hold our opponents to low scoring games, but our inability to score negates any defensive successes we may have had.

Our zone must be the prime example of how to bust the 2-3 zone defense. We’ve consistently shown it in our games this season, with predictable results – the opponents score most of the time. Coach, please ditch the zone and go straight up man-to-man for our last 3 games. If you show zone again, it’s almost sure that these WILL BE our last 3 games.

Is there anything we did right?

Actually, a few, but they didn’t matter much.

5-4-16-14. We matched Ateneo in steals (5 each), blocks (4 each), turnovers (16 each), and offensive rebounds (14 each).

Any other good news? Well, maybe. We limited Ateneo to 11 tries from beyond the arc, of which they made only 3. Sounds good? They made them when it counted, those treys fueling their second half surge, while we made only 2 rainbow shots, the timing of which hardly mattered.

22. Free throws, that is. The officials gifted both teams with the same number of free throws. Oh, and we made them miss 4 of theirs.

Looking for small victories? AVO outplayed Slaughter. If that was the objective of the game, we won, by 5 points, 13-8. We also got him into foul trouble early, AVO fishing 2 early fouls in the first quarter which forced Black to sit him for the remainder of the first half. But he still managed to pull down 7 boards and contribute in that fateful 2nd half surge that sent us spiraling to our 2nd loss this year to Ateneo.

What next?

Making the playoffs is now out of our control. It depends on a combination of factors – our winning our last 3 games (in the process eliminating NU), and UST losing their last 3 games. Neither of which is likely.  So unless a miracle does occur, we miss the playoff bus for the 2nd time in 3 years.

We hope that the team takes the losses to heart, decides to go all out in the remaining games, and see what happens. If the unlikely does materialize, we could still make something out of the season. Just maybe. So keep your fingers crossed, hold your rosaries, and give the team the boost they need. They sure could use a friendly voice about now, so let’s cheer them in the last 3 games. Who knows, they may just surprise us. Either way.

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