Mahindra’s franchise-best start is no lucky punch

The Mahindra Enforcers are off to their best start in franchise history with 4 impressive wins in 5 outings. Sure, they finally lost, but in that game, the Enforcers were up by 20 and they still had a chance to win during the final minutes. They have been very competitive plus a couple of their wins came against contenders, San Miguel Beer and Alaska.

Now, their early success has absolutely nothing to do with the presence of Manny Pacquiao. Instead, a few factors have contributed to their amazing run. What are these factors? Let’s take a look.


White Hot

The fates of teams who struggled in other conferences can change instantly when the right or perfect import comes along. Fortunately for Mahindra, the arrival of James White has definitely boosted their roster. White has led the Enforcers to four early wins and if he continues to deliver, then Mahindra will find themselves with their first ever playoff berth. Heck, they might even have one of the top seeds.

White has been sizzling for the Enforcers. He is tied for 5th in scoring and he leads all imports in field goal percentage and efficiency. White does not loiter out of his range. He takes smart jumpers and he rarely forces the issue. He knows that his strong suit is closer to the hoop, so he hardly attempts three-pointers. Aside from scoring, White also does his job on the defensive end. He rebounds and contests shots.

Moreover, he is not a flashy import and that’s okay as long as he helps the team win. White does the little things that can deliver them wins: a good pick, a smart pass to the open teammate or an offensive rebound. He simply does what the team needs him to do and he does it well.


Chris Gavina

Rookie PBA Coach Chris Gavina is NOT their head coach on paper but it is very obvious that he is their real head coach. Honestly, I don’t know why Mahindra continues this sham of considering Senator Manny Pacquiao as their head coach when everyone knows he does not fulfill that role. Anyway, Gavina has been performing admirably and his coaching staff deserve a lot of credit as well for making Mahindra respectable and competitive this early.

During timeouts, Coach Gavina often appears calm while he gives out instructions and designs plays. He seems to know what he wants his team to do during a given scenario. The coach exudes confidence and the team listens intently to his teachings. Gavina believes in his players and they believe in him. He has been able to motivate Mahindra and the results have been very positive. He does not get rattled easily and he does not complain to the officials incessantly (for now).

Gavina has been willing to experiment with his lineup and he gives a lot of his guys chances to play. Heck, even Senator PacMan received minutes. His inclination to tinker with the roster has worked wonders because “magic bunots” (see Kieth Agovida) have produced more beneficial results than harmful ones.


Balanced Attack

Relying on your import to do a lot of things does not always equate to a bunch of wins. Teams generally get more wins when the import gets help from the locals. Thus, it is more advantageous if everyone contributes. So far, the Enforcers have been getting production from multiple guys, namely KG Canaleta, Aldrech Ramos, Paolo Taha, Keith Agovida and their Asian import, Iman Zandi.

The Enforcers are a much better scoring team because more people are getting buckets. However, they are last in team assists, probably because they use post plays or isolation sets with White, Ramos and Canaleta who can easily shoot over smaller defenders. In any case, Mahindra should improve in that aspect.

The Enforcers regularly play 11-12 guys per game and all of them bring something to the table. Aside from their import, the locals like Ramos, Canaleta, Taha and Revilla are averaging more than 9 points per game. Their bench is not too shabby either since Zandi, Agovida, Pinto, DiGregorio, Yee and Pinto provide relief minutes without putting their team behind in the scoring column.

Not even the injury to LA Revilla has derailed their hot start. He is expected to be back in action in a week or two.


Numbers don’t lie

Mahindra’s improvement can also be seen with the statistics.

On offense, they are 5th best in scoring while on defense, they are currently 3rd in least points allowed. Those numbers showed improvement from previous conferences, especially on the offensive side. During the past Commissioner’s Cup, the Enforcers were an abysmal scoring team as they placed last in the league. Additionally, Mahindra also shoots the ball efficiently. They are ranked 1st in field goal percentage and they are the only team making 50% of their shots. Not even SMB, TNT or Ginebra can say the same.

On defense, they improved slightly this conference, going from 5th during the Commissioner’s Cup to 3rd best during the current Governor’s Cup. The Enforcers are also 3rd in blocks. As for rebounds, Mahindra is not near the top but they routinely outrebound the opposition by about 2 rebounds per game.

Of course, they are far from being a perfect team which is good news to the rest of the PBA.

In any case, the Enforcers need to improve on their assists, turnovers and three-point shooting. Once those happen, expect them to be considered a threat in the PBA moving forward. – By Rolly Mendoza

Follow this writer on Twitter: @rollzter