One key takeaway from the NLEX Road Warriors’ 91-84 win over the Meralco Bolts last Wednesday was how the former exposed the latter’s problem as far as depth is concerned.
Meralco Bolts Head Coach, Norman Black once said the league is all about talent [READ: Meralco out of the race, but now part of the conversation], and the squad’s lack of stability in both the frontcourt and backcourt positions was thoroughly exposed in the loss.
The Bolts relied heavily on Andre Emmett firing 44 points in the loss, with the import needing a whopping 40 shots to achieve the stat line, but other than the reinforcement, the locals struggled to provide support.
Meralco’s bigs, John Ferriols, James Sena, and Reynel Hugnatan, combined for only 10 points and 7 rebounds, while forwards Cliff Hodge and Sean Anthony added only 8 points.
Opposite of the Meralco frontline was Asi Taulava, who used his size advantage to get baskets inside of five feet. The 42-year-old center finished with 20 points and 10 rebounds, and unlike the Bolts’ big men, Taulava presented himself as an option on the low block.
“We are glad to put the ball in the post since it is only Reynel (Hugnatan), John (Ferriols), or James (Sena) guarding Asi (Taulava). I believe they would double so that will leave someone open,” Road Warriors head coach Boyet Fernandez said.
“We have to take advantage of it. They are not as tall so we capitalized on it. Luckily I’ve been able to overcome it. I’ve been struggling in the first two games. I am just happy I can step up and help Kwame (Alexander),” Taulava added.
“I started the season so passive because I was more of a distributor. My strength is try to attack guys and that’s what changed in this game. I was surprised myself. It feels good.”
NLEX import, Kwame Alexander also had a big night, scoring 29 points on an array of slam dunks and spectacular finishes, while adding 17 boards.
He claims Meralco did not have enough stoppers to contain him on straight line drives, thus creating mismatches and opening opportunities for his teammates.
“Mainly, the guys guarding me can’t stay with me with our quick five so they gave me the ball and take advantage of the mismatch. If I had the ball, I can make decisions like attack, hand-off, or do a pick and roll. A lot of scoring opportunities,” Alexander shared.
When it comes to the backcourt, the addition of Japanese guard, Seiya Ando, proved to be a timely fit for the Bolts, since they do not possess a bunch of premier playmakers other than Mike Cortez.
Coincidentally, Ando played like Cortez, reading pick and roll plays effectively, while also wary of how to split defenses. Ando finished with 18 points including 3 triples in 27 minutes of play, providing more rest for the veteran point guard.
The game apparently showed the many holes the Bolts need to fill to become even more competitive in the future — a handful of perimeter stoppers, more playmakers, rim protectors, and inside operators.
It was also a realization of just how Black has done a tremendous job steering the team to the semi-finals of the previous conference despite an inferior roster relative to the league’s powerhouses.
In the end, the squad could only do so much with limited tools, but it also makes people wonder how far the team can go should Black have a luxury of assembling an ultra-talented lineup. The Bolts are fighting extra hard for success, and are a few bunch of guys away from being even more competitive in the league.