IT’S been nine months since he and his team captured a rare grand slam in the PBA, but Marc Pingris feels Purefoods has not been the same since.
Something's missing, 'Ping' rued.
The Hotshots’ star power forward believes his squad has yet to regain its killer instinct - among other qualities that made them the most dominant team in the pro league the two previous seasons - as evidenced by their Commissioner’s Cup semifinal letdown against Talk ‘N Text.
“Hindi ko alam kung lumaki ba ulo namin dahil naka-grand slam kami. Feeling namin kaya na namin lahat eh dahil naka-grand slam kami,” Pingris said, thinking out loud after the Hotshots lost Game Four to the Tropang Texters, 79-66, to bow out of the playoffs.
“Pero walang sisihan,” he was quick to add. “Kailangan lang namin i-improve as a team 'yung paano maglaro ng one-hundred percent — 'yung level na kahit humahabol 'yung kalaban or lamang kami, kailangan ganun pa rin 'yung laro namin, hindi magbabago, talagang kalma lang.”
The Purefoods franchise had no trouble doing that during a dream run that saw the Hotshots win four successive championships including only the fifth grand slam in league history.
Now the Hotshots have failed in a title defense for the second conference in a row. After being bounced at the quarterfinal stage of the Philippine Cup playoffs by underdog Meralco, Purefoods appeared to be cruising in the Commissioner's Cup until they ran into a red-hot Jayson Castro.
Worse, Purefoods failed to protect an early lead in the final two games of the Talk 'N Text series as they bowed, 1-3. That is something Pingris found hard to believe.
“Nandun na kami, pero bumigay lang ulit,” Pingris said after losing a Game Four where they enjoyed a 10-point cushion and led for three quarters. “Parang ganun yung sakit namin: 'pag nakakahabol yung kalaban, bumibigay kami.”
The Hotshots actually held the Tropang Texters to their lowest scoring output yet this season, but they couldn’t find an answer to Jayson Castro, who matched his career-high of 33 points, including 13 in the payoff period to almost single-handedly lead the TNT’s comeback.
“Ngayon, 'pag hinahabol kami, parang natataranta kami eh,” Pingris said. “Dati hindi. Talagang steady lang kami.”
“Nawawala yung gigil namin pag dating sa mga crucial game; nawawala yung energy namin,” he added. “'Yun yung kailangan ibalik ng team.”
That is something Purefoods has to figure out ahead of its Governors Cup title defense.