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Stats Don’t Lie: Can Sam Daghles lead TNT to back-to-back championships



The last three PBA championships have been epic. All three series have gone the distance (Purefoods played a 5-game series last Govenor’s Cup) and each time, we’ve seen a new champion crowned. In this new era of the PBA, does Talk N’ Text have what it takes to go back-to-back?

But this is what makes repeating in the new PBA so tough – the cramped schedule gives players less time to recover from deep playoff runs. Just ask Alaska and San Miguel Beer, both of whom struggled at the start of last conference. While Alaska did make the quarterfinals, it never really found the mojo that carried it throughout the Philippine Cup, while San Miguel Beer failed to qualify for the playoffs. Meanwhile, as of this writing, Rain or Shine, TNT’s opponent in the Commissioner’s Cup Finals, is sitting at a rough 1-3 after getting just a split in its Dubai trip.

TNT is currently sitting in the middle of the pack, with a 2-1 slate that I’m sure it’s pretty happy with, considering that it’s missed Jason Castro and Kevin Alas for three games and Ranidel De Ocampo for two.

Luckily for TNT, it’s found the perfect Asian import to help them stay afloat while they allow Jason Castro to recover.

Many Pinoys are familiar with Sam Daghles, thanks to his numerous battles against Gilas as he suited up for Jordan. His nickname is “the Jordan of Jordan” but after finally seeing him up close and personal, he’s more like the Magic of Jordan.

Daghles is a great floor general who brings leadership and stability to TNT nation. With Castro and Alas both nursing injuries, Coach Jong Uichico has handed the keys to the Jordanian guard and let him run the show. To Coach Uichico’s credit, he’s stuck to his word of installing an offense that fits his roster and he’s done the same now that Castro is out and Daghles is on his roster.

Daghles and Castro are two completely different players. The Blur is a flat out scorer, a great penetrator who uses his speed to get deep into the paint or his now reliable jump shot to keep defenses honest. TNT pretty much threw out the playbook and just gave him the ball to run tons of ball screens until the defense finally bent.

Daghles plays a more deliberate style of play, using his size (side note – there’s no freaking way the dude is just 6’3”. The stories of how teams get their imports to make the height limit are stuff of legends, but that’s for another day) and craftiness to keep opponents on their heels. It’s a style that more resembles the European style of play.

From the get-go, it’s clear that he’s looking to set up his teammates. How many guys in the PBA regularly make passes like this:

or this:

The problem right now though, is that as good as he is, he can’t quite carry the load by himself. The burden of playing nearly 40 minutes a game, as well as the overall physicality of the PBA has affected his shooting. He’s actually shooting just 26% from the field and it doesn’t help that he’s forced to take bad shots at the end of the shot clock once the offense bogs down. Furthermore, he’s also averaging nearly 5 turnovers a game, as teams have locked in on him to make life difficult.

The numbers show it too. Currently, TNT’s offensive rating stands at 99.8, good for 6th in the league. Last conference, at the end of the elimination round, the Tropang Texters had a tidy offensive rating of 104.0, good for 2nd in the league. Furthermore, their overall net rating (offensive rating minus defensive rating) is at -2.8, after it had come out at +4.4 during the Commissioner’s Cup.

The team is also struggling on the boards, as it’s only posted an offensive rebound % of 24.2%, dead last in the league. This would be alright for a jump-shooting that has an effective FG% of above 50%, but on the defensive end, they are allowing opponents a OREB% of 32%, also putting them dead last in the league. In a conference where at least 4 teams have no height limit, and the top four teams get twice-to-beat advantages in the quarterfinals, one or two losses due to poor rebounding could be very costly.

That being said, the Texters need to get Castro and Alas back in fold ASAP. While Daghles is great to have as an Asian import, he can’t carry the load by himself, especially with TNT not really having any reliable back up PG at the moment. Having just one week for preparation to implement two imports isn’t enough, no matter how great a coaching staff TNT has.

But the truth is, all Daghles has to do is keep them afloat until Jason makes his comeback. Having an all-Asia guard to keep the engine running while your other all-Asia guard gets back to 100%? That’s quite a luxury to have.

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Calvin Abueva rejuvenated with return of physical play: ‘Masarap maglaro’



Photo by PBA Images

For Calvin Abueva, it feels great to play in the PBA nowadays.

The Beast, who has always been known as one of the league’s most physical players since entering in 2012, was all praises for the way the officiating has changed this 43rd season — by just letting all the players play.

“Mas gumanda yung tawagan ngayon, naging physical nga. Naging exciting para sa mga tao, mas marami na nanonood ngayon eh,” said Abueva moments after their 97-83 victory over the Barangay Ginebra San Miguel, Sunday night.

As has been said many times, physicality had become something controlled over the last two years. Abueva knows it too well, having been a casualty, as he has paid a bevy of penalties during that time.

And now that it is a thing of the past, the 6-foot-2 bruiser feels much better, knowing that he can display his brand of basketball once more.

“Masarap maglaro, talagang pisikalan,” said the 29-year-old forward from Angeles, Pampanga. “Siyempre makikita naman natin kung sinasadya o hindi, basta katawan lang.

“Pisikal. Yun yung magandang laro di ba?”

Aside from the comeback of physicality, what makes Abueva beam even more is the way the Aces have been playing in the 2018 Philippine Cup. After a 0-2 start in the tourney, they have now booked their third straight win.

“Nung 2017 parang nilubog na namin yung losing streak namin doon. Ito 2018 na at panibagong destination na naman yung ina-ano namin,” said Abueva, who had nine points, nine rebounds, and five assists against Ginebra.

“Sustain muna namin ‘to… Sana magtuloy-tuloy ‘tong winning streak namin.”

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Alaska takes advantage of Greg Slaughter’s absence



For the streaking Alaska Aces, their stunning 97-83 victory over the favored Barangay Ginebra San Miguel on Sunday night was partly made possible by the absence of one key player: seven-foot behemoth Greg Slaughter.

The 28-year-old center, who was averaging 20.67 points and 10.3 rebounds prior to Sunday, did not play against the Aces due to a hamstring injury. How he incurred the injury has yet to be determined.

“There’s a small person named Greg Slaughter who didn’t play; I think he has an impact on the game,” quipped coach Alex Compton after the match.

“[They missed] a guy who I think is gonna win an MVP soon in Greg Slaughter.

“Sometimes dito sa liga natin, you have to take advantage when opportunities come your way. You don’t want anybody to get hurt [though],” added Compton.

With Slaughter out of the way, the Aces’ big men feasted.

Vic Manuel top-billed with 18 points and five rebounds, and elder statesman Sonny Thoss turned back the clock with a 17-point, four-rebound outing.

“Malaking bonus na rin sa amin, kasi wala nga si Greg kaya nakuha namin yung panalo,” said Manuel.

“Yeah it definitely helped,” added the six-foot-seven Thoss, who shot 6-of-12 from the floor and made four of his freebies.

“He’s a big guy, he’s a big presence inside so it took one big guy off our shoulder.”

Slaughter was approached and asked by scribes regarding his injury, but he was not in the mood to comment. No one can blame him, though, since the Barangay have slipped to their second straight defeat after a 2-0 start.

“I’m always there in practice, going over our gameplans. But it’s better if you ask our PT,” he said.

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Alaska completes turnaround at Greg Slaughter-less Ginebra’s expense



Photo by PBA Images

A strong second half surge was all the Alaska Aces needed to turn back the heavily-favored Barangay Ginebra San Miguel, 97-83, and book their third straight victory, Sunday night at the Ynares Center in Antipolo City.

The Aces, who have yet to lose this 2018, have now improved to 3-2. Meanwhile, the Barangay absorbed their second straight loss and have dropped to 2-2.

“I was telling the guys na parang ang dami nating iniisip, hindi natin ginagawa yung ginagawa natin noong nakaraang dalawang linggo. Sabi ko relax lang tayo,” said coach Alex Compton, sharing what he told his wards that sparked the win.

Vic Manuel led the Milkmen with 18 points and five rebounds. Sonny Thoss turned back the clock as he made 17 markers on 6-of-12 shooting, while Chris Banchero supplied 14 points, six assists, and five rebounds.

The Aces were trailing by eight, 36-44 at the half, but it became a different ball game come the third chapter as they outscored the Gin Kings, 37 to 19, to erect a favorable 73-63 cushion heading into the game’s final 12 minutes.

From there, Alaska kept their foot on the gas to sustain their lead, which grew to as much as 18, 85-67, after their 6-0 spree — punctuated by Banchero’s lay-up plus a foul — with 6:14 remaining in the final frame.

Ginebra still tried to make one last push as they inched within 10, 75-85, but baskets by Thoss and Kevin Racal propelled Alaska to an 89-75 lead with 3:42 left to play — more than enough to knock out their counterparts.

“I was glad to come away with the win,” added Compton. “Sometimes, we have to take advantage of opportunities coming your way. You don’t want anybody to get hurt but when two number one picks on the other team aren’t playing… There.”

Jvee Casio had 13 markers for Alaska, while Calvin Abueva nearly had a double-double of nine points and nine boards along with five assists in 20 minutes.

Aljon Mariano had 15 points, nine rebounds, and three dimes for Ginebra, who — despite having Sol Mercado back in the fold after ankle issues — missed the services of Joe Devance and Greg Slaughter due to injuries.

Japeth Aguilar, Scottie Thompson, and Kevin Ferrer each scored 12 for the Barangay, with Thompson adding five assists. The trio combined for 15 of Ginebra’s 43 rebounds.

Alaska will aim to extend their streak versus the Blackwater Elite on Saturday, January 27 at 4:30 PM, while Ginebra will look to end their slump against the Phoenix Fuel Masters on Friday, January 26 at 7:00 PM. Both games are at SMART Araneta Coliseum.

The Scores:

Alaska 97 — Manuel 18, Thoss 17, Banchero 14, Casio 13, Abueva 9, Teng 9, Cruz 5, Enciso 3, Potts 3, Exciminiano 2, Magat 2, Racal 2, J. Pascual 0.

Ginebra 83 — Mariano 15, J. Aguilar 12, Ferrer 12, Thompson 12, Caguioa 8, Cruz 8, R. Aguilar 5, Tenorio 5, Mercado 2, Taha 2, Wilson 2, Jamito 0.

Quarterscores: 26-23, 36-44, 73-63, 97-83.

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Frustrated Jared Dillinger admits ‘he’s getting sick’ of Meralco’s bad PH Cup runs



It’s no secret that the Meralco Bolts have struggled in the Philippine Cup for the last three years. During the last two seasons, the eight-year-old franchise’s win-loss tally is four wins and 18 losses.

And in the 2018 edition, the narrative has been the same, with little to no hope of it turning the other way around.

The Bolts bowed to the TNT Katropa, 99-81, Sunday night — their third straight defeat after winning over Blackwater Elite in their opener last December. If things continue as they are, it looks like another poor all-Filipino tilt run is looming.

“We’re 1-3 and there’s nothing to be happy about,” said Jared Dillinger, who had 14 points and five caroms in the match at Ynares Center in Antipolo. “It’s a long season though… We [shouldn’t] panic but it’s not fun right now.

“The Philippine Cup has been our Achilles heel and every damn Philippine Cup we get our ass kicked. I’m getting sick of it.”

In this game, Meralco missed the services of top forwards Ranidel De Ocampo and Cliff Hodge due to injuries. But for Dillinger, those issues shouldn’t be excuses.

“When you get two guys like Ranidel and Cliff out, as a team, that’s the opportunity for the guys below them to step up,” asserted Dillinger, who has been with the franchise since 2013.

“It doesn’t have to mean scoring, getting the assists or rebound, it’s just making the right play, being smart.”

Asked what went wrong in this particular loss versus their sister team, where they shot just 39.2 percent from the floor and had committed 17 turnovers, the 10-year veteran lamented the poor effort that the Bolts put up.

“TNT didn’t do anything much, given that they played well. But they didn’t have any secret schemes against us. They just passed the ball around, and they got open shots,” added the 10-year pro, as TNT made 23 assists and shot 18 triples.

“Our effort wasn’t there. We got to put up the intensity cause it sucks right now.”

Meralco have a chance to end their slump against the Kia Picanto this Wednesday. Dillinger sees it as a do-or-die affair, warning that it will be a grind-out affair knowing that the Picanto is coming off a skid-ending win over Rain or Shine.

Do-or-die ’cause that’s gonna be a playoff game. Thank God they beat Rain or Shine ’cause you don’t want to be that one team that gives the win to a 0-16 [team]. You don’t want to play teams like that,” stressed the all-around forward.

“Nothing to take away from Kia though. It’s gonna be tough.”

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