Dillinger, Newsome typify sudden decline in Meralco game. Take a look at numbers
Jared Dillinger and Chris Newsome have fired blanks in the PBA Governors Cup Finals.

HOW have the mighty Meralco fallen into a 0-2 hole in the PBA Governors’ Cup Finals grudge match against Ginebra?

One quick answer is that the defending champs, with Best Player of the Conference winner Greg Slaughter this time around, is proving to be the bigger, taller, deeper and stronger team.

But the Bolts have rarely looked this powerless throughout the season-ending conference. One might forget that this was the top seed, losing only twice in the eliminations, thrice heading into the finals after bowing to Blackwater once before winning four straight, including a semis sweep of Star.

What then is behind Meralco’s stumbling start to its revenge bid?

A closer look at the numbers reveals a glaring weakness the Bolts have to address fast — the frigid outside shooting that has stalled their once lethal offense.

Meralco averaged over 101 points a game in the elimination round, which is surprising due to its defense-first mantra and deliberate offense. The Bolts led the league in three-point percentage, points allowed, three-pointers allowed, offensive rating and were second in assists. It’s an impressive mix of efficient offense and stingy defense that led them to the top.

The Bolts offense started declining in the semis against the Hotshots, which was more or less expected as defenses usually tighten and the pace slows down in the playoffs, and even more so for Meralco against a fellow defense-minded team in Star. From 101.4 points per game, the Bolts scored 87 an outing in the semis sweep.

Against Ginebra however, the Meralco firepower has been shut down, losing almost 20 per game from its elimination round average. And the Gin Kings have taken the Bolts’ long-range gunners completely out of the finals series so far.

After averaging almost 11 triples a game from the semis, Meralco has only made an average of 6.5 treys in the two games in the finals so far — against a Ginebra team that has allowed the most three-point attempts (tied with NLEX) in the eliminations no less.

Ginebra has struggled defending the three-point line early in the conference, even up to the semis against a game TNT KaTropa team, but the Gin Kings’ defensive adjustment in the finals deserves much credit. They have taken a Meralco team, which had 36% of its offense in the semis coming from beyond the arc, out of its game.

In the finals, the Bolts have only gotten 24 percent of its offense from three pointers, knocking down just 6.5 triples a game on 23% shooting (down from a league-high 37.8% in the eliminations, and 34% in the semis). Overall, Meralco has shot only 38.2%, which is even below the Governors’ Cup-best FG% allowed by Ginebra in the elimination round (39.7%).

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In short, the Ginebra defense got tighter and the Meralco offense turned colder, leading the Gin Kings two wins away from retaining the crown. Here’s a look at the Bolts’ performance from the elimination down to the finals so far.

 

 

Pts

FG%

3ptm

FTs made

Rebs

Ast

Stl

Blk

Fouls

TO

Elims

101.4

44.7

9.9

15.1

51.9

23.5

4.5

3.1

20.5

14.6

Quarters

97.5

44.7

12.5

13

49.5

26.5

1.5

4

20.5

11

Semis

87.0

44.2

10.3

12.7

45.7

22.7

5.7

4.3

22.3

17.3

Finals

81.5

38.2

6.5

12

44.5

20

7

3.5

21.5

16

 

Ginebra coach Tim Cone has been modest about his adjustments, saying Meralco has just been missing its usual shots. But the Gin Kings locked down on defense, for sure, with two particular targets — Jared Dillinger and Chris Newsome.

It’s fair to mention that the Bolts had at least eight players averaging over seven points a game in the eliminations, which fueled their efficient offense. But in the finals, the same kind of production has been missing from guys like Garvo Lanete, Reynel Hugnatan and Mike Tolomia.

Still, no one in the Meralco roster has seen their numbers decline quite like Dillinger and Newsome.

Dillinger has revived his offense particularly in the semis as he shot 56% from the field and a jaw-dropping 59% clip from beyond the arc against Star on his way to averaging 14.3 points. In the finals, he has been limited to a conference-low 5.5 points so far on 16.7% shooting (2-of-14 from long range).

The veteran forward himself has admitted that going up against Ginebra’s bigger, taller frontline has given him problems. Compared to Star in the semis, Dillinger had his way with a frontcourt that averages 6-foot-5 in height and is not as athletic as the Gin Kings bigs (with an average height of 6-foot-7).

It doesn’t help Dillinger that there’s always someone over 6-foot-7 in the Ginebra defense ready to chase him out even from the three point area, with an agile forward rotation of Joe Devance and Japeth Aguilar. Check out just how much Dillinger’s numbers dropped against the Gin Kings’ hefty frontcourt.

 

Pts

FG%

3ptm

FTs made

Rebs

Ast

Stl

Blk

Fouls

TO

Elims

8.7

34.3

2.1

0.5

3.4

1.3

0.4

0.5

2.8

1.2

Quarters

13.5

50

4

0.5

3.5

2

0

1

2.5

0.5

Semis

14.3

56.0

3.7

1.3

3.3

3.3

0.7

0.0

2.7

1.3

Finals

5.5

16.7

1

1.5

5

2.5

1.5

0.5

3

2

 

The same towering Ginebra frontline has seemingly taken Newsome out of his game as well. After averaging over 2 free throw attempts (the closest indication of aggression from a player since we don’t have drives per game stat yet), the 2016 Rookie of the Year has only managed two attempts at the stripe in the finals so far with zero makes.

His offense, once second in the team, has also suffered as playoff opponents have figured out how to deal with the athletic Newsome — sag and dare him to shoot from deep (shooting a combined 1-of-7 from long range in the semis and finals). Here’s how Newsome’s numbers have fallen after an impressive run in the eliminations.

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Pts

FG%

3ptm

FTs made

Rebs

Ast

Stl

Blk

Fouls

TO

Elims

14.3

52

0.7

1.9

6.6

5.5

1.1

0

2.2

2.4

Quarters

13

44

0

2

6

5

1.5

1.5

2

4.5

Semis

8.7

40.0

0.3

1.7

5.0

3.3

1.7

0.3

4.3

3.0

Finals

7

35

0

0

3

3

0.5

0.5

2

3

 

The defense is still there for Meralco, giving up a 94 a game, which is just three points over its league-best defense in the eliminations. But unless coach Norman Black figures out how to regain his offense’s spark, and until Newsome and Dillinger rediscover their fiery form, PBA fans might need to cancel their plans to head to Philippine Arena for a Game Five and beyond.

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