ATENEO may be going for the jugular in Game Two of the UAAP Season 81 Finals against the University of the Philippines, but that’s a thought that is far from coach Tab Baldwin’s mind.
While the Blue Eagles could pretty much seal the deal with a victory on Wednesday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum, those kinds of thoughts are precisely the ones that Baldwin want his team to avoid.
“Well look, we don’t see it as a Game Two. We see it as a next game. We try to play every game on its own merit. We recognize that UP’s backs are against the wall, it’s a do-or-die game that changes their mentality for sure but for us, we’re looking at Game One, for the mistakes that we made and the things that we need to execute better offensively and defensively,” Baldwin said in a phone interview with SPIN.ph.
"We try to keep a lot of issues that people talk about out of the frame. We don’t want to talk about the crowd, we don’t want to talk about being in the championship, we don’t want to talk about closing the series, it’s just a basketball game for us and we want to play it as well as we can and be the best that we can,” he added.
Instead of talking about how they should avoid those things altogether, Baldwin shuts them off for good during practices. What they talk about now are the things that they want to improve on, especially coming from a Game One win which left a lot to be desired for Baldwin, even after an 88-79 win last Saturday.
This includes how they’ll be defending the three-point line better as they gave away 13 three pointers to the Fighting Maroons on an efficient 46 percent shooting in Game One.
“When your mind is full of the things that you have to do and that are part of what determines how you play, then by that process, we minimize the things that we don’t want to talk about or think about. It’s a very clear process, if you sit around and talk about other issues, that’s what you’re gonna focus on. We don’t. We talk about how we want to play and what we’re going to do in terms of our game plan,” Baldwin explained.
“We have a game plan and I expect them to execute the game plan. In the first game we didn’t do that very well. We don’t have to do a lot of adjustments, I don’t think, in terms of our gam eplan. We just need to do a better job applying the principles that we have,” he added.
One thing that Baldwin noticed coming off that first game is how the Fighting Maroons extended their range from way downtown – with guys like Jun Manzo, Juan Gomez de Liano and Diego Dario taking shots farther than usual.
It’s something that Baldwin is taking note of entering what could be the title-clinching game for the Blue Eagles.
“I think the one thing that we possibly need to respect a bit more is that UP extended the range of their three-point shooting. If you go back and look in that game, a lot of their attempts and makes were not taken on the line, or close to the line, they were a step out,” said Baldwin.
“We don’t really believe in leaving people room in making decisions, and obviously we didn’t do a good job on that. We need to be able to do that and at the same time protect the paint and not sell our soul to extended pressure at the expense of UP all of a sudden having lots of driving lanes.”
With plenty of time for preparation and whatever external distractions now minimized, Baldwin expects nothing less from his players come Wednesday.
“We know what we’re supposed to do and that’s what I expect the players to do.“