Historically in the PBA, teams that won Game 5 in a 2-2 series have gone on to win the Finals 37 out of 49 times (75.5% success rate). On a positive note for RoS, TNT has lost a best-of-7 series three times in previous Finals appearances even after obtaining 3-2 leads. Here are some keys to winning the game for both teams.
Rain or Shine
Focus on playing basketball.
It’s safe to assume that part of their game plan was to rattle, annoy, irritate and disrupt the focus of TNT by being extra physical and engaging in trash-talking. Oftentimes, these mind games work to their favor but on this occasion, RoS seemed affected negatively by the way TNT was pushing (fighting and talking) back at them. RoS needs to just play basketball and forget about extra-curricular matters because they get called for more personal fouls and technical fouls due to their incessant whining and complaining.
Communicate defensively and adjust rotations.
RoS got buried by constant match-up problems presented by TNT whenever a screen was used by Castro. The Elasto Painters often switched defenders during picks set for Castro and they got burned most of the time. Castro either drove past his bigger defender or he passed the ball to the post where RDO and Johnson scored easily over smaller defenders. RoS needs to modify their defensive rotations with regards to Castro. They can try double teaming or trapping him early which might force Castro to give the ball up or pick up his dribble.
Shut down the top guns.
Coach Yeng mentioned that his team needed to shut down at least one of the three top guys for TNT (Johnson, Castro and RDO) because if ALL three played well, RoS would probably end up on the losing end. Now, for this to happen, RoS cannot simply hope that bad shooting affects TNT’s top guns. RoS has to decide which player to target so that they can slow him down by using double teams or by denying him the ball at all costs. RoS can also try attacking this player on the offensive end to hopefully pick up fouls.
Run and attack the paint.
Would you believe that RoS only scored two points from turnovers and just had eight fastbreak points? They also lost the points in the paint category again. RoS has been settling for long jumpers even during transition opportunities. Those are lower percentage shots and chances of getting fouled on a jumper are pretty small compared to driving to the paint. The Elasto Painters need to be more aggressive in Game 6 if they want to extend the Finals.
Talk ‘N Text
Continue varying their defense.
In Game 4, TNT started to play zone defense more (instead of man-to-man exclusively) and they unleashed a full-court press/trap that caught RoS by surprise which resulted into 16 turnovers for RoS. The varying defensive sets also slowed down the pace and tempo of the game which favored TNT. RoS failed to score over 100 points for the third time in the Finals; consequently, RoS received their third loss. Additionally, the Tropang Texters also used different guys on Paul Lee (Carey, MGR, Castro, Alas) which bothered Lee offensively.
More pick and rolls or pops.
Jayson Castro and Ranidel de Ocampo have played marvellously in the Finals. Both guys have been the best players on TNT, thus, it made perfect sense to call plays that focused on the strengths of both guys. TNT ran pick and rolls/pops with RDO as the screener while Castro was the ball-handler. These plays were executed perfectly with RDO making jumpers over his smaller defenders or Castro using his quickness advantage over a bigger defender. Expect TNT to continue milking this play until RoS finds a way to stop them.
Sharing is caring.
Jayson Castro can definitely score like an import. Their offense revolves around him and he actually led TNT in scoring during the first four games of the Finals. However, Castro is more dangerous when he gets his teammates more involved offensively. During the Commissioner’s Cup Conference, TNT is undefeated (5-0) when Castro finishes with at least 7 assists. In Game 5, Castro only scored 15 points but he handed out 9 assists. His playmaking is crucial because it gives more confidence to his teammates and the threat of passing the ball actually gives Castro more space to shoot or drive to the hoop.
Expand the rotation.
Coach Jong finally used more bench players in the last two games which meant less minutes and more rest for his top guns. This also allowed TNT to try different defensive sets that bothered RoS. They were able to use Harvey Carey on Paul Lee while Jay Washington saw some minutes defending Wayne Chism. At the same time, TNT’s bench was able to contribute one of their best games in the Finals. Their bench combined for 20 points, 12 rebounds and 5 assists.
Prediction for Game 6: I picked TNT to win the series in six games and it appears that they are headed for that. No point in changing that pick now. I think Castro will continue to dominate the Finals and he will end up as the Finals MVP.
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