GAMES that were all but decided going to the final minutes, fans leaving their seats and heading for the exits long before the final buzzer, the scoreboard reflecting the carnage that had just happened on the floor.
Such scenes are the norm more than the exception in the PBA these days in a season where the pro league, which for over a decade resisted the chance to expand, finally accepted two expansion teams in KIA and Blackwater.
The entry of the two new franchises has opened new opportunities for players and coaches and sustained the league's unprecedented growth, but at the risk of disturbing the balance among teams which PBA officials had painstakingly tried to establish since the Crispa-Toyota days in the 70s and 80s.
So is the PBA paying the price of expansion this season?
"Yes it is," said Rain or Shine coach Yeng Guiao. "We're seeing a lot of lopsided games this season, and we can expect more of that in the next two to three years."
The outspoken coach agreed that expansion was the right move for the PBA, saying that "we cannot remain stagnant for so long." But he said the meager concessions given KIA and Blackwater made it even harder for the two expansion teams to put up competitive lineups.
Guiao, however, is not pinning the blame squarely on the two new teams. The eliminations format in the Philippine Cup puts the quotient system into play, meaning teams which held big leads are not likely to ease on the pedal in the endgame.
The multi-titled coach also pointed out that there was one game when league powerhouse Talk 'N Text lost by 43 points and his own Rain or Shine side dropped another match by 23.
"But those are abberations more than the rule," he said.
On the other hand, the two expansion teams have been consistently losing games and by wide margins, as the numbers bear out.
Statistics obtained by Spin.ph showed that since winning its opening game over fellow expansion team Blackwater, Manny Pacquiao's KIA side has lost five straight games by an average margin of 19.8 points. Blackwater is not doing any better, losing all five games by 10.2 points.
It did not help the numbers that Barako Bull, a team that has long faced accusations of being a 'farm team' for San Miguel Corp. squads, has also been consistently bad, dropping all its five games by an average of 15 points.
On the whole, matches in the first half of the Philippine Cup eliminations are decided by an average winning margin of 14.7 points - almost double the average winning margin of 8.6 points in the league's centerpiece all-Filipino tournament last season.
Worse, Guiao said the league can expect more of the same in the next two to three years, which he said is the amount of time KIA and Blackwater need to develop and put together a competitive team.
"It will take two to thee years, at the very least, before the two expansion teams can catch up with the other established teams," said Guiao, who more than anyone else knows what it takes to develop new teams, having coached teams like RFM Swift, Red Bull and Rain or Shine almost from scratch.
While he agrees that expansion is inevitable for the pro league, Guiao warned that a league plan to accept two more teams before the 2016 season may hold dire consequences for the PBA.
Guiao said another round of expansion by 2016 is simply too soon for the pro league, insisting that KIA and Blackwater should be given enough time to become more competitive before PBA officials can even think about accepting new teams again.
"I agree that expansion is necessary, but I don't think expansion can happen every year," the former PBL commissioner said. "Let's give these two expansion teams all the opportunity to be stronger first, then and only then can we think of expanding again."