Zero in: Meralco’s Failed Title Bid

It’s fitting for the PBA to end their 2016-17 season with nearly 55k strong shouting like madmen and I guess at the end of the day, the right team won.

Yeah, the Barangay Ginebra Kings showed that they are the hungrier team and for some reason, their yearning to score their first ever title defense is better than Meralco’s seven-year title drought.

And they are probably the first team to win a series with that kind of gate attendance.

So let me take you back on the events that unfolded on why LA Tenorio is the Finals MVP, Greg Slaughter, Mark Caguioa, Scottie Thompson, Japeth Aguilar, Joe Devance, and even Kevin Ferrer could have been Finals MVP, and why apart from Reynel Hugnatan, it’s hard to identity the ring leader in the Bolts’ side.

Let’s zero in.


Ranidel de Ocampo’s torn calf muscle!

Obviously, losing RDO to injury is a factor. He was Meralco’s answer to Greg Slaughter. If Gregzilla was unleashed to give nightmares on the inside, then Ranidel is there to provide suffering on the outside. When RDO succumbed to injury, not only did Meralco lose a scorer, they lost a veteran that could have given the team the championship backbone.


No counter for Greg Slaughter and Japeth Aguilar

If Ginebra lost to Meralco, I think it’s because they didn’t use Greg Slaughter more. Sure, LA Tenorio is the deserving Finals MVP… but Slaughter was their game changer. Any time there’s a towering presence on the inside with the capabilities of the former ADMU Blue Eagle, it will eat the team physically and mentally. Cliff Hodge can do so much… so this leaves Justin Brownlee and Japeth Aguilar battling Reynel Hugnatan, Durham, and some other Meralco wing player. Wing player? Yeah… this is the aftereffects of the RDO injury and the Kelly Nabong suspension.


What happened to Chris Newsome?

This series, I hated Chris Newsome. I don’t want to imply that he’s a choker. He was actually awesome during the first Ginebra versus Meralco faceoff in 2016. But in this series I felt he didn’t play as awesomely as he did a season back. He overdribbles. He gets an open lane to fire a triple and then he hesitates. He sends off bad passes which often leads to a breakaway. It came to the point in which it was better for Newsome to stay stuck on the bench. Even if I was rooting for the Kings, I wanted a good series and if Newsome played his part, then it would have been a different ballgame.


What happened to the rest of the Bolts?

But I’m not casting blame on Newsome alone. Jared Dillinger’s missiles were on point in the clincher but like Newsome, he played tentatively in the series. Ditto for Baser Amer – a guy that should have given the team Jimmy Alapag-like fire dousers. Allen Durham said he can go for 48 minutes but there were times when all he needed is 48 more points from his teammates. The Bolts overly relying on The Hulk in this series is an understatement. There is a reason why Reynel Hugnatan became the surprise package off the bench… as he used his smarts, his experience, and his confidence to make himself valuable as what he did in the previous Governors’ Cup finals. But he shouldn’t be the team’s star player and the biggest point producer of the Bolts who still had Newsome, Amer, Cliff Hodge, and Dillinger on their lineup.

Durham is bar none worthy of the Best Import accolade given to him. With that said, he looks gassed out in the fourth quarter. Tip-ins become a chore, the charity stripe isn’t as charitable for him, and the non-calls begin to mess up on his psyche.


Bad calls took them to the worst

Norman Black and his wards should have known that they are entering each finals game as the away squad. I am not saying that there will be hometown cooking every day, but they can’t go day in and day out remembering the bad calls. There were a lot of instances wherein a bad call messes up their heads for an entire game… and in most nights, the Kings capitalized.


Lack of bench trust

I was shocked that Norman Black stuck with a Leo Austria-like rotation because what he should have done is to look for his bench for magic bunots. In Game 6, Garvo Lanete was instrumental and in Game 7, Anjo Caram came in a little too late. When the Bolts were playing tentatively, he could have inserted Mike Tolomia and even Joseph Sedurifa, Simon Atkins, and Joseph Yeo for that matter. I don’t know why Yeo is contented on riding the bench but an old school version of The Ninja could have helped against his former team. For every Shaquille O’Neal, there’s a Slava Medvedenko. For every Michael Jordan, there’s a Jud Buechler. Tim Cone is that big of a coach to not see the flaws of his gameplay as well as his enemies and make adjustments to soothe his needs.


Kelly Nabong?

Kelly Nabong is structured to be a volatile and misunderstood hothead. He’s probably going to be with another team next season but I wonder if he could have helped diminish the Ginebra onslaught. Part of me says yes… especially if he’s going to play like a boss and make a statement on Ginebra’s bigs but as a mere shock trooper, I don’t see it happening. Still, they missed the services of another rotation guy in a series in which passing the ball to Slaughter in the middle pretty much signals the end of a scoring sequence.


In the end, bad calls, rotation issues, and the Ginebra magic ended Meralco’s second finals campaign on a bitter note. Will there be a third? If this is the lineup they will parade, I doubt if Meralco could withstand the bigger and better versions of Greg Slaughter, Japeth Aguilar, Kevin Ferrer, and Scottie Thompson. Allen Durham did enough to warrant a return call but with the pressure on his shoulders, the Bolts need to give him support. RDO and Reynel Hugnatan are old and most of their young guns need further seasoning. Jared Dillinger is also right there in age which is why if the Bolts can have enough assets to bring in a low end two-way vet like Doug Kramer, Rico Maierhofer (when he returns from the league after Alab Pilipinas), JC Intal, and even KG Canaleta, then perhaps they can have the roster depth they lacked in the series.

And let it be known that upon acquiring RDO, they lost their 2017 first round pick.

So with that, I give it up for Ginebra and hopefully Meralco can return for another sequel… but that battle would end up like the third battle between Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez.

A fourth duel though could be something for the Bolts.


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