When the Blue Eagles turned it up to start Game Two of the UAAP Season 80 Men’s Basketball Finals, second-year Ateneo head coach Tab Baldwin cringed on the sidelines.
“It was tough because we had a big lead and I’m a coach that hates big leads. That may sound ironic but in today’s world I think young people don’t have a killer instinct,” shared Baldwin as Ateneo led by as much as 21 points, 49-28, late in the second quarter. “And I see it over and over and over in basketball leagues all over the world.
“Big leads just seem to drain and momentum swings the other way.”
Though the lack of “killer instinct” of the so-called millennial generation compared to Gen X-ers is debatable, Baldwin, a world-renowned tactician, is right about the change in global basketball.
In the NBA alone, 15 percent of team’s that led by as much as 15 points during the first half ended up losing the game. According to ESPN’s Kevin Pelton, this is a high for the league.
In the UAAP though, the Blue Eagles though became just the second team this season to lose a game after leading by double-digits to end the opening frame. And in both of those times, the DLSU Green Archers were the team that recovered from those deficits.
For Baldwin, the defending champions’ experience proved to be the difference that led to La Salle’s epic 92-83 come-from-behind win that sent the Finals series to a winner-take-all tilt.
“I’m not so sure it’s youth as much as it is La Salle’s championship experience showed and our lack of it may have showed,” admitted the former Gilas Pilipinas tactician. “Not sure whether that’s youth or just being in the cauldron of championship games and learning and understanding what it requires of you when the pressure comes on.
“They were better when the pressure really came on.
“Credit La Salle’s defense, credit the changes coach Ayo made. He went big that didn’t work. He went small that began to work. His pressure [defense] then started to take its toll on us and momentum swung. We just didn’t play as well once the momentum swung,” he added.
Besides knotting the series, La Salle will have a momentum advantage over Ateneo come Sunday. To combat this, the decorated tactician made sure to tell the Blue Eagles one thing before they left the SMART-Araneta Coliseum Wednesday evening.
“The mentality has changed already. We get rid of that loss in the locker room after the game. We move on. Game Three, that’s all we think about,” Baldwin stressed. “We don’t think about Game Two. La Salle didn’t think about Game One and they came out and played. We won’t think about Game Two.
“It’s winner takes all now.”