NOT even a victory can hide NLEX’s need to put more points on the board as it tries to repeat against Magnolia in Game Two of the PBA Philippine Cup semifinals on Monday night at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The Road Warriors took the series opener by a hairline on Saturday night behind Alex Mallari’s dagger three-pointer off a Kiefer Ravena kickout, but coach Yeng Guiao believes the Hotshots still have the advantage if the scorelines keep being low.
“And mababang score will favor Magnolia,” Guiao insisted. “It’s just that we were able to keep up with their defense. They played good defense on us, we played good defense on them so naturally, it’s going to be a low-scoring game.”
“But I still feel throughout the series we need to keep the scores high for us to have a great chance of winning games,” he added ahead of Game Two of the best-of-seven series that tips off at 7 p.m.
The second-seeded Hotshots indeed thrive on low scores as they are arguably the tournament’s best defensive team, limiting opponents to a conference-best 84.1 points per game and are also are No. 1 in field-goal percentage allowed at 39.04% in the eliminations.
The Road Warriors, on the other hand, are a relatively high-scoring team, ranking fifth in offense at 94.5 points, although the Hotshots are right above them at 94.7.
Despite Ravena drawing timely offensive support from Cyrus Baguio and Raul Soyud, NLEX can still get more production from Kevin Alas and JR Quiñahan, who combined for just nine points on an unacceptable 2-of-20 shooting from the field in Game One.
The Hotshots, tough, got their significant support from PJ Simon, who will have to continue to step with Marc Pingris expected to be out for the rest of the series, in the team’s bid to get over the hump following three straight semifinal exits.
“I think when it comes to playoff experience, they’ve been here four straight times, this is our first time. They will have the edge on experience,” Guiao said.
“But sabi ko nga, the pressure is on them,” he was quick to add. “Kami nag-eenjoy lang kami dito, and we’ll just take it as far as we can take it.”