After 11 gruelling games in the 2019 PBA Philippine Cup eliminations, the Phoenix Pulse Fuel Masters and Rain or Shine Elasto Painters have sealed the number one and two slots atop the standings.
After getting Calvin Abueva acclimated into their system, expectations were certainly high for the coach Louie Alas-mentored squad entering the All-Filipino tournament. Phoenix justified the hype, going undefeated in the first five games of the conference, and losing only twice in 11 outings. Matthew Wright has developed into a true superstar, while young buck Jason Perkins has continued to show flashes that he could also be one someday.
RoS, meanwhile, certainly opened a lot of eyes with their performance in the Philippine Cup. The team seems to have resolved the internal issues between coach Caloy Garcia and big man Raymond Almazan that plagued them last conference. James Yap has defied ‘Father Time’ and emerged as the team’s primary scorer, while Beau Belga has evolved from an enforcer to a dependable all-around player.
FOX PH breaks down the important statistics behind these two teams’ early success.
All about the hustle for Phoenix
Rebounding has always been one of Phoenix’s strong suits, and the addition of “The Beast” further improved their glass-eating ways. The Fuel Masters led the league in total rebounds per game in the eliminations (52.70) and raked in 37 defensive rebounds per contest (1st) and 15.70 on the offensive end (2nd). Abueva collected majority of those boards, notching 11.84 boards per game, which is 2nd in the league behind June Mar Fajardo.
Phoenix were also masters of disrupting the passing lanes early on, leading the league in points off turnovers with 20 per game. The team normed 8.0 steals per contest (4th) with Abueva (1.18), Wright (1.36), and Alex Mallari (1.0) completing at least a steal per contest.
On the offensive side of things, Phoenix needs to improve their three-point accuracy (31 percent) but they have shown improvement on their free throw shooting (70 percent) and field goal percentage (42 percent). Wright (18.73 points per game), Abueva (15.27), Perkins (13.0) have carried the scoring load, while Justin Chua (10.9) has been a pleasant surprise.
Teamwork makes the dreamwork for RoS
Unlike Phoenix, Rain or Shine’s overall team numbers doesn’t really stand out of the board. But the team’s solid cohesion and selfless play was enough to clinch the second seed (they hold a win over third seeded Ginebra who still has one game left).
Only Yap (14.73 points per game) and Maverick Ahanmisi (12.09) are actually averaging in double figures, but they received plenty of contributions across the board. Rookie Javee Mocon has been a revelation for the team, while other young guns like Norbert Torres and Rey Nambatac are also pitching in solid contributions.
Three-point shooting has been a cause for concern for RoS in previous conferences, but they addressed that issue in the Philippine Cup, making 34 percent of their shots from distance (tied with NLEX for 2nd in the league). Rim protection has also been key for the Elasto Painters, churning in 3.70 blocks per contest (4th). Almazan’s return has certainly boosted their chances in that department, as he is currently 2nd in the league in rejections per game (2.2) behind Poy Erram.
(Images from PBA)