By Neal Tieng
This will be the battle cry of every Green Archers fan as La Salle (7-3) squares off with second running UP (8-2) in another battle for second seed tomorrow afternoon.
So, the biggest question now, can we beat the Maroons when we clash with them at 4:30pm at the Mall of Asia Arena?
As much as the 8-2 record of UP seemed impressive, not all wins were convincing; it seemed that some of these victories could have had an element of luck. Before Adamson took down UP in their second-round encounter, the Maroons almost lost their fight to the nothing-to-lose FEU Tamaraws in their previous game, and could have actually lost FEU not choked in the final minute.
The Maroons barely survived the Adamson onslaught in the first round winning only by two, 73-71 and of course everyone remembers how they managed to pull off a similar hairline win against La Salle, 59-61.
The impressive 8-2 UP record could easily have been a middle-of-the-pack 5-5.
REVISITING LA SALLE – UP ROUND 1
The Green Archers were in command most of the low-scoring ball game – a green and white favorite. DLSU led 48-43 by the end of the third in a very defensive game. The green on-ball defenders limited UP’s go-to Maroon and MVP candidate Zav Lucero to only 10 points in all of three quarters.
But Lucero caught fire midway through the fourth, and matched the 11-point output of La Salle, just by himself. Lucero went nuclear in the final quarter and carried UP on his shoulders while La Salle shot 5-of-20 from the field in the final 10 minutes.
It’s easy to conclude that UP did not win that game, La Salle just lost it.
The Green Archers got lost in the physicality of that round one encounter with the officials allowing players to play and gave ZERO free throws to either team in the final quarter.
HOW TO STOP THE MAROONS?
Looking at the stats, it would seem that the answer is easy, STOP LUCERO and you stop UP. But stopping Lucero is not that easy. The leading MVP candidate can score in traffic and is a prolific shot creator. Lucero sank 52.11% of contested shots.
And, UP has options. Ricci Rivero has been the main beneficiary of all those double-team Lucero kickouts and has always been good in euro-stepping through the interior D. Rivero is averaging 13.2 points per game as UP’s second leading scorer. Although Rivero’s numbers may seem impressive, it is due to the volume of shot he takes (6.5 per game) only makes 26.25% of his three-point attempts and leads UP in turnovers with 3.2 per game.
Carl Tamayo, on the other hand, has been living up to the hype and norms 13.1 points per game. This rookie can anchor the transition and can break the zone as a stretch big. Tamayo can also slash with his superb handles for a power forward. His high basketball IQ only boosts his physical abilities.
Unlike Rivero, Tamayo is best within six feet away from the basket. Although draining three-point shots on occasions, the former NU Bullpup norms 30.95% from deep, which simply means that he is twice likely to miss it that making it. Tamayo also scores best off the dribble which also provides a window for opponents to poke the ball away as he turns to make his move to the hole.
As a team, UP is the poorest three-point shooting team with a 24.91% percentage. Three times more likely to clank it than make it.
HOW DID ADAMSON BEAT UP? They limited the touches of Lucero and allowed their defense to rotate on the others. Lucero only went for 1-for-4 the entire fourth quarter while Jerom Lastimosa nuked UP with eight points.
The Falcons also allowed Tamayo to get the ball outside of the shaded lane and wait for him to twirl or post-up to poke the ball away. Adamson also rested Lenda Douanga who came in just in the critical stretch for added rim protection against Tamayo and neutralize UP’s Malik Diouf.
Can we replicate Adamson’s feat?
NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE as Kevin Garnett once hollered and in one fine Saturday afternoon, we may have a chance at shooting down the UP Maroons.
(disclaimer: we are simply armchair coaches doing MAMARU)