AFTER leading Barangay Ginebra in scoring through 14 games in the PBA Philippine Cup eliminations, Japeth Aguilar has been reduced into a mere 'mortal' in Gin Kings' semifinal playoff against San Mig.
Four games into the best-of-seven series showdown currently tied at 2-2, the 6-foot-9 high-flyer's scoring average has dropped from 18.8 points to 10.0 a game while his field goal percentage has gone down from 55.3 percent to just 38.2 percent in the semis.
They Said It!
“If I’m (San Mig) coach Tim Cone, my focal point (on defense) is going to be Japeth kasi if Japeth gets going, medyo mahihirapan sila." Ginebra guard LA Tenorio
However, teammate LA Tenorio believes the dip in Aguilar’s scoring doesn’t mean the 27-year-old power forward is struggling offensively in the playoffs.
“I don’t think he’s (Aguilar) struggling in this series. Medyo nag-iiba lang. Di lang siguro tayo sanay na di siya umiiskor,” noted the Ginebra court general. “Nangyayari yun eh, nagbabago talaga roles. And knowing San Mig, they will try to stop Japeth talaga (in the series).”
Tenorio, however, believes his Gilas teammate's numbers are down primarily because he has become the top target of San Mig's defense - the reason the other half of Ginebra's Twin Towers combination, Greg Slaughter, is scoring a pile of points in the semifinal playoff.
Simply put, Tenorio said San Mig, believing it can't stop both Ginebra big men, has decided to focus more on Aguilar and less on Slaughter.
“If I’m (San Mig) coach Tim Cone, my focal point (on defense) is going to be Japeth," said Tenorio. "Kasi, if Japeth gets going, medyo mahihirapan sila (Mixers)."
"Kasi si Greg nao-open eh, so siguro sabi nila, kay Japeth na lang mag-focus ang defense dahil kapag nagsama sila (Slaughter and Aguilar), mahihirapan sila,” he added.
But while Aguilar’s scoring has been stymied by San Mig’s defense anchored by energetic forward Marc Pingris, Tenorio remains confident the Ginebra big man will be able to adjust and learn to contribute in some other ways, like acting as a decoy on offense.
“Si Japeth kasi very versatile. He can play from the outside and inside. I think Japeth is getting it, na ang role niya minsan, maging decoy din,” said Tenorio.
“Marami naman siyang puwedeng gawin to help the team like putback, rebounding, saka defense.”