Final4ward – La Salle eliminates FEU out of the Final Four dance

 By Nico Baguio of

Some things are harder to quantify when it comes to analyzing a gam. We can determine who the best rebounders are, or who the most efficient scorers are, probably even determine who the best “passers” are. All of that can easily be quantified by situational statistics and pace adjusted metrics. One click at the glossary above and you’ll realize that the best rebounders are those who’s rebounding percentages are higher (of course you need to filter for minutes played). If you believe that a player has an effect on the team’s ability to rebound but it doesn’t show up on the box score (a very reasonable argument) then you can point to on/off court rebounding percentages (an infinitely harder statistic to track). You can say who the most efficient scorers are – just look at the ORTG, USG%, TS%, eFG% and PER (it will be added soon). Similarly, if you believe a player has an effect on the team’s ability to score the ball but it doesn’t show up on the box score, then on/off court stats are better (but harder to track).

So when a blogger like me (who likes to use numbers together with the eye test) starts using words like “heart”, “passion” and “fighting spirit” it kind of sounds awkward. But La Salle showed what “fighting spirit” means. La Salle could have easily whimpered out of the Final Four – when FEU was smelling blood (9 point lead, last 4 or 5 minutes). But they didn’t. They missed easy shots, forced a lot of difficult shots, they turned the ball over a lot, they got a few bad calls down the stretch when they really needed to get some good breaks from the game. But that didn’t matter. Because they always found a way to get the ball back. They dominated the rebounding battle from the 3rd quarter all the way to the 4th. That was all they needed to get one final chance to make it to the Final Four. One five minute burst where they got all the breaks of the game, including some hail Mary shots from players like N. Torres, Jeron Teng and Vosostros.

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If you follow me on twitter, I said there were three things that will determine who wins this game – 3 PT shooting, Free Throw battle and Rebounding. I base my keys to the game on how two teams matchup. In this instance, FEU and DLSU are very good 3 PT shooting and 3 PT defending teams. Both rank above average in both categories. On offense, FEU had an eFG from 3-PT range of 41.7% (4th)while DLSU had an eFG of 42.6% (2nd). On defense, FEU allowed an eFG from 3 PT range of 35.4% (1st) while DLSU allowed just 36.2% (3rd). The league average is 40.3% (for both cases). So whoever found a way to better the other would (on either side) would get a huge advantage.

Another important aspect is how DLSU and FEU totally mark up against each other on the rebounding edge. DLSU rebounds 37.66% of their misses and 66.82% of the opponent’s misses while FEU rebounds 36.38% of their misses and 66.16% of their opponent’s miss. That’s a difference of just 1.28% in their ORR and 0.66% in their DRR.

Lastly, what was once DLSU’s greatest weakness (they had a FTR differential of -1.81% in the 1st round. This means that on average, the opponent had a 1.81% advantage on Free Throw Rates) has now become their greatest strength (ranking 2nd in FTR differential in the 2nd round). On the other hand, FEU was always weak from the FT department (ranking 2nd worst in FTR differential in both rounds).

Looking at the numbers, it’s very clear that DLSU won the rebounding battle. They rebounded more than 50% of their misses. They also had an incredible advantage from the FT line (38.18% vs 7.14%). Although DLSU did lose the 3 PT battle (they only made 2 3 PTs compared to the 7 made 3 PT shots by FEU. They were therefore a -14 from the 3 PT line battle), it didn’t matter because La Salle was determined to attack the paint. They were not going to lose this game because they decided to shoot from the outside. We’ll put the pressure on the referee’s to call the fouls by aggressively attacking the paint – that was La Salle’s offensive plan.

Most Valuable Player Award

That’s who the MVP is. It’s the great big Norbert “the Bear” Torres. Yes, for 14 games, Norbert Torres was terrible. He underachieved. But we aren’t recapping the season here. We’re recapping this specific game. And without him, DLSU would have surely lost this game. Norbert Torres had a an ORTG of 114.92, a TS% of 82.9%(!), an eFG of 77.8% (!), an ORR of 30.5% (!). If it weren’t for his astronomically high TOR (32.2%), he would have had a perfect offensive game for ANY traditional big man. He was a receiver of the attention Jeron Teng got from the FEU defense (a credit to Jeron). Once he received the ball and realized the paint was wide open, he attacked the paint. Even when he wasn’t receiving passes, he worked hard to establish position in the inside and caromed a lot of offensive rebounds, extending his team’s possession and in some cases, scoring immediately off those rebounds. He embodied the “fighting spirit” I saw from the La Salle team as a whole. Jeron was trapped hard on his drives and pick-and-rolls so it was up to the other players to find a way to lift the team up when Jeron couldn’t. The result was a career night for Norbert Torres. I especially loved his offensive rebound followed by an And-1 which he celebrated with a chest pump followed by a bear growl. Impressive Bear!

Darko Milicic Award

The award goes to Almond Vosotros – whose unrelenting confidence on his scoring ability (which is impressive, by the way) was what almost gabe La Salle to a lost. Jeron was hounded by the defense. Jeron, being the smart player that he is, usually passed the ball to the open guy although he sometimes had the tendency to force the issue. And that’s ok because he was making some of those shots (even if they were forced). Vosotros couldn’t. The defensive attention that he got from the FEU defense was solid – preventing him to get wide open 3-PT shots and open lanes to the basket. He wasn’t terrible by any stretch – his defensive work was great with 7 defensive rebounds, 3 steals and he kept Romeo and RR from shooting La Salle out of the building (with the help of Thomas Torres, of course). But what’s so infuriating about Vosotros’ game yesterday was his forced awkward, one-footed shots that he took in the middle of the FT line and the rim. I can understand Vosotros going for a 3/13 if most of his shots were open or smart shots. But no, they were forced.

This was a game that La Salle truly deserved to win. FEU was playing really well and La Salle could have easily stopped fighting. They didn’t. And that’s a huge credit to Coach Gee’s ability to rally his troops behind a singular goal – “let’s go back to the Final Four”. And they did. With an unrelenting fighting spirit (actualized by their remarkable offensive rebounding advantage), La Salle earned it’s right to a showdown with Ateneo. Now, it’s up to them to stand against the best team in the league.

For FEU, this should be a huge lesson for them. Especially for someone like Romeo – who kind of slacked when FEU had a huge lead in the halfway point of the 4th. He showboated, overdid his (impressive) herky-jerky movement. His team decided to just shoot jumpers instead of work off-the-ball (a plan they executed really well up until that point). If RR and Romeo return, FEU can still be a contender next year.

As usual don’t forget to share your tweets 🙂 I’ll also have my preview of the Ateneo-La Salle Final Four matchup in a while. And just to remind everyone, you can comment in the section below (comments are moderated though to prevent spam), or you can email me questions, concerns, suggestions, etc. You can also follow me on twitter here. Also, don’t forget to share or RT this to all your friends 🙂 Thanks!

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