MANILA – A decade ago, it was hard to imagine Asi Taulava not being the biggest and most imposing figure on the floor during PBA games.
But times have changed, and the influx of giants entering the league has given more competitiveness to the PBA, at least inside the paint.
On Wednesday, NLEX’s center entered the game against Kia armed with a single mission: to wear down the Carnival’s gigantic import PJ Ramos.
Though Ramos still scored 41 points and grabbed 23 rebounds, Taulava, who finished with 10 points and 10 boards, felt he succeeded in holding his own ground as the team won 102-86. [Read: NLEX shrugs off slow start; whips Kia in fourth quarter turnaround]
Years of experience in the international scene helped Taulava with the way he tried to contain Ramos. He has faced China’s Yao Ming (2002), Iran’s Hamad Haddadi (2007, 2009, and 2011), the 7-foot-3, 330-pound Joseph Garth (2007 during FIBA Asia Champion’s Cup), and Korean behemoth Ha Seung-Jin (2007 and 2009).
He even faced former NBA pro Darryl Dawkins in an exhibition match in 2005. Recently, locals like Greg Slaughter and June Mar Fajardo have helped Taulava in maintaining his competitiveness.
Now 41 years old, Taulava said he leaned on years of experience battling other bigs underneath the rim in limiting Ramos. The exposure definitely helped. He admitted that he wasn’t even in his 100% coming into the match, but he just played his part. Facing opponents bigger than him was always a special day.
“I just tried to tire him down,” Taulava said after NLEX picked up its fifth straight win. “The comparison was like Joseph [Garth]. He could have scored 60, but I just tried to stay between him and the basket. He is a special player. He is still dominant.”
“I’ve been sick since the All-Star Weekend. I’ve been lying [in bed] for a week and a half, so it feels good to finally get some good sleep,” he added.
“The only thing we wanted to do is to limit him, and keep the locals out of the game. It didn’t matter how much he’s score as long as we keep him down.”
Ramos missed a lot of shots when it was Taulava defending him, and sometimes opted to take the outside shot or ill-advised fadeaways. The Puerto Rican native also committed a lot of turnovers as Al Thornton would also offer strong side help defense whenever Ramos tried to post up.
However, against other NLEX forwards like Enrico Villanueva and Eric Camson, Ramos had a feast inside the paint for he was too strong. At least, Taulava gave him a more difficult time by pushing him out of his comfort zone.
Fortunately, all the banging bodies, pushing, and shoving worked in the end, as the visibly-tired Ramos was limited to only two points in the fourth period.
“Playing Yao, playing Haddadi, playing Joseph, I just tried to pick or choose which way I’m maneuvering. I took a beating with all the elbows and shoulders to the face, but the experience in the past helped me tonight. He scored 41, but I tired him down towards the end of the fourth.”