Battle of the bubble

SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - November 29, 2020 - 12:00am

From 12 teams to eight to four and now, only two are left standing in the fight to the finish for the PBA Philippine Cup crown in the Clark bubble. Barangay Ginebra and TNT needed a fifth do-or-die game to dispose of their opponents in the semifinals so neither had the luxury of an easy ride to the Last Dance. Game 1 of the best-of-seven finals is set at the AUF gym today and it looks like fans are in for a heckuva series.

The record shows that TNT wins with offense while Ginebra wins with defense, making for a classic matchup. In the Tropang Giga’s 11 wins this conference, TNT averaged 103.1 points but only 89.2 in its six losses. In contrast, Ginebra held victims to an average of 84.1 points in its 12 wins but gave up 89.2 in five setbacks. It’s no wonder that Ginebra is No. 2 in the league in defense and TNT No. 3 in offense. They’re meant for each other as TNT is No. 1 in second chance points (18.1) while Ginebra is No. 1 in least second chance points allowed (11.4) and TNT is No. 1 in rebounds (51.5) while Ginebra is No. 2 in least rebounds allowed (43.6).

Here are 10 factors that could determine the outcome of the finals.

Pace: Ginebra prefers a grind-it-out style while TNT likes to play up-and-down. Ginebra is No. 11 in fastbreak points and relies more on its halfcourt execution than transition. Ginebra is No. 3 in field goal percentage (44.9) compared to TNT’s No. 9 (41.5) and hits at a higher clip from three-point distance, 34.1 percent to 31.2. Ginebra’s ability to control the tempo is critical to its efficiency in execution. Advantage: Ginebra. Offense – TNT averages 98.2 points compared to Ginebra’s 85.6. Ray Parks, R. R. Pogoy, Jayson Castro, Poy Erram and Troy Rosario average in twin digit points for TNT. Stanley Pringle, Japeth Aguilar and Scottie Thompson are the only Ginebra double figure scorers. Advantage: TNT.

Defense: Ginebra is No. 2 in two-point field goal percentage allowed (45.9) and extremely stingy in yielding only 85.6 points a game up to the semis. Aguilar is a fearsome rim protector and the rest of the gang plays defense like a cohesive unit. Since TNT isn’t an exceptionally dangerous perimeter shooting team, expect Ginebra to throw zone variations during the series. TNT, however, is no slouch on defense, leading the league in steals and opponents’ turnovers. Advantage: Ginebra. Chemistry – Familiarity and experience are Ginebra’s assets. Ginebra is coming off a title run in the previous conference with an intact nucleus. TNT added Erram, Kib Montalbo, Simon Enciso and Lervin Flores in the offseason. Advantage: Ginebra. Rebounding – TNT smothers the boards and leans on its domination of the glass to trigger transition. Giga will be conscious of boxing out Thompson who’s averaging more rebounds than Aguilar. Erram, Parks and Rosario are Giga’s leading rebounders. Advantage: TNT.

Hunger : TNT hasn’t bagged a title since 2015 so it’s been a long wait. Ginebra has won a championship in each of the last four seasons. Coach Bong Ravena and active consultant Mark Dickel are on a mission to capture their first title together. Advantage: TNT. Coaching – Tim Cone is the PBA’s winningest coach and hasn’t lost his magic touch. He’s in a class of his own. He’s a genius in tactics, adjustments, matchups and maximizing the talents of his players. LA Tenorio is his alter ego on the floor while Castro is TNT’s court general. Advantage: Ginebra. Depth – TNT has a longer rotation with younger legs and more role players. Giga can deploy more players to match up against Pringle than Ginebra to match up against Parks or Castro. Advantage: TNT.

Physicality: TNT has a platoon of enforcers to play physical defense with David Semerad, Harvey Carey, Samboy de Leon, Ryan Reyes and Montalbo. No doubt, TNT will want the ball out of Pringle’s hands so physicality will be key to deny his touches or force him to pass. Advantage: TNT. Matchups – Aguilar plays more within a team system on both ends than Erram. Aljon Mariano will play a big role in defending Parks or Pogoy. TNT relies more on individual defense. Advantage: Ginebra.

TNT hasn’t won a title in the last 13 conferences or dating back to the 2015 Commissioner’s Cup. Ginebra hasn’t won a Philippine Cup crown with Cone. Both teams are hungry for victory and determined to mark a milestone. TNT’s average age is 30.5 years with 10 players 30 or less while Ginebra’s average age is 31.5 with seven players 30 or less. TNT has a deeper rotation with six players averaging at least 25 minutes and five players averaging double figure points while Ginebra has five players averaging at least 25 minutes and three averaging double figure points. With fresher legs, TNT’s chances to clinch are better the longer the series. Ginebra’s chances are better in a short series.

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