The highly-anticipated Manila Clasico will have their 3rd meeting this PBA season. It will also be their 3rd encounter since Coach Tim Cone was moved from the successful Purefoods franchise towards the floundering Ginebra San Miguel franchise to address the shortcomings of the Barangay.
Overall, Star leads the rivalry 94-76 and for this season, the rivalry is tied at one apiece. The Star Hotshots would like to add more to their lead and more importantly, the Hotshots would love to beat their former coach, Tim Cone, while giving their rookie coach, Jason Webb, a 2-1 edge over his mentor. At the same time, another win temporarily places the Star Hotshots higher than Ginebra in the standings while the Gin Kings edge closer to an early elimination.
So, why will the Star Hotshots win this upcoming matchup? Here are 4 reasons that favor them.
1. Back Court Firepower
If Ginebra has the frontline advantage, then the Star Hotshots have the advantage with their backcourt and perimeter players. The Hotshots will welcome any contributions from Marc Pingris, Rafi Reavis, Ian Sangalang and Norbert Torres but in all honesty, a big portion of their points will come from James Yap, Allein Maliksi, Justin Melton, Mark Barroca, and PJ Simon (Alex Mallari too if he is healthy enough to play). Aside from their import, Maliksi leads the locals with 17 ppg while Simon is next with 12 ppg. Meanwhile Barroca and Yap are both averaging less than 10 ppg but they are talented enough to explode in any instant, especially Big Game James who cherishes playing against Ginebra and Mark The Spark Caguioa.
Hence, the Star Hotshots must make multiple efforts to get James Yap going early. Coach Webb should call plays for Yap while the others should actively look for Yap on offense. If Yap waxes hot early, then the Gin Kings are in big trouble.
2. Super Bowles
Denzel Bowles is a former PBA Best Import. He has also won a championship in the PBA, albeit with Coach Tim Cone. This is his 4th time to play in the Commissioner’s Cup, thus, he has played in previous Manila Clasico games. He knows what to expect from the players and most especially the fans. Furthermore, Bowles is an experienced import whose length and athletic ability can provide the Hotshots a topnotch defender against Greg Slaughter and Japeth Aguilar. On offense, Bowles can also hurt the Gin Kings with his drives to the paint and trusty midrange jumper. He is averaging more than 29 points to go along with 15 rebounds and about 2 blocks. While some might say that his numbers are pedestrian for an import, Bowles contributes more than just stats. His familiarity with the players should lead Bowles to proper positioning/spots during offense and defense. In addition, Bowles is already aware of how basketball is played and refereed here, so that should give him an advantage over Ginebra’s import, Othyus Jeffers. Aside from those, Bowles is healthy while Jeffers might be slightly limited due to an ailing back that might flare up.
3. Run and Gun
Coach Webb wants his team to dictate the pace and tempo of the game. He prefers a faster brand of basketball that often runs and takes lots of shots. The Star Hotshots are a smaller team compared to Barangay Ginebra which might lead to rebounding problems. However, once they get the rebound, Star will definitely push the ball and attack Ginebra’s defense in transition. The Gin Kings are not known for hustling back on defense and they have players who would rather complain to the referee first instead of rushing back on defense. Moreover, Barangay Ginebra also has Greg Slaughter and Joe DeVance who are not exactly swift players. Therefore, the Hotshots will have the advantage in fast break points and transition opportunities because they have speedy guys who will constantly attack the defense. Small guys like Melton, Barroca and Simon are fearless when driving to the hole, so the height advantage of Ginebra might be negated if the twin towers get into early foul trouble.
Furthermore, the Hotshots should also have the advantage when it comes to perimeter shooting because they have better shooters. All of their guards and swingmen can hit outside shots which means that Ginebra will think twice before double teaming Denzel Bowles because they don’t want to leave open shooters.
4. Pride & Desperation
Barangay Ginebra is widely considered as the most popular team in the league. It has been like that for years. Meanwhile, the 2nd most popular team is the Star Hotshots. Hence, Star should have a fair amount of fans supporting them during Manila Clasico. Those fans expect Star to play well and win because the Hotshots have a history of winning. They should know how to recover from their awful start. They are a proud team who will make sure that they compete and show up against Ginebra. Surely, the Hotshots would love to beat ex-coach Tim Cone to get ahead in their head-to-head series versus Ginebra.
Anyway, do you remember the Hotshots last second loss to the Gin Kings from the last conference? That definitely stings until now. Thus, the best way to ease that pain and forget is to get revenge on Ginebra as early as possible.
Lastly, Star is also a desperate team. They cannot afford to lose their 4th game in 5 tries because the Commissioner’s Cup is only 11 games long and just the top 8 teams will move on to the next round. Another Star loss would result to more doubts and questions about their roster and the coach. More talk about the players and coach not meshing might prematurely end their campaign. All of them want to avoid that and the only solution is to win now.
Ultimately, it will be up to the players to trust their coach and his system. They need to play their hearts out and display maximum effort. The Hotshots no longer have Tim Cone but they still have the core of a Grand Slam team. Will that team show up? – By Rolly Mendoza