Back to square one, who got the upper hand: SMB or TNT?

Shaquille O’Neal goes wild in mosh pit at Tomorrowland

Are we having fun yet? Who is not entertained by the semifinals of both series during the 2016-2017 Oppo Philippine Cup?

The SMB and TNT matchup is tied at 2 games each and the pivotal Game 5 will be later tonight. Everyone knows that the team who wins game 5 in a tied series, gives themselves a better chance to win. The victor of game 5 is often successful in winning the series about 70-75 percent of the time.

Which team has the edge? What are the things we should look for? Who will win game 5?

Here are key stats to monitor:

Both teams take a lot of threes especially since they have capable shooters on their roster. Thus, seeing them launch treys roughly once out of three shot attempts can be considered normal. Now, the team who made the most threes in each game has won that particular game. During games 1 and 4 which the Beermen won, SMB hit more threes than TNT. In game 3, TNT managed to connect on more threes which helped them win. Meanwhile, game 2 saw both teams make 7 threes each. Hence, the team that hits more threes is 3-0 in the semis.

Aside from outside shooting, a more telling stat that favors the winner has been assists. The team with the most assists is 4-0 in this series. SMB had the edge in helpers during games 1 and 4 while TNT had the advantage in games 2 and 3. Now, it makes sense for the winning team to have more assists and threes made because playing unselfish basketball and searching for the open/best shot possible, leads to more assists, more points and more wins.

On the other hand, some statistics that do not always favor the winner in this series have been points in the paint, bench points and free throws. Even though SMB has the best inside player in the PBA with June Mar Fajardo, the Beermen have been bested by the KaTropa in the paint. In 3 of the 4 games, TNT has consistently attacked the paint and scored more points in the shaded lane. However, on average, SMB got more fouls called in their favor and had more free throws awarded. Still, that advantage did not help SMB in 2 of those losses. Lastly, a stat that TNT has dominated is bench points. This was to be expected to because TNT plays more guys off the bench like Larry Fonacier, Troy Rosario and Kelly Williams. Inversely, SMB has a massive edge from starter points because the majority of their minutes go to the starters.

Who are the players to watch for?

For SMB, Chris Ross was phenomenal in game 4. He tallied 31 points and hit 5 threes, both marks were career-highs for him. His averages after 4 games are 13.0 points, 7.0 boards, 6.8 assists and 3.3 steals. In short, Ross is killing it on both ends. He still delivers topnotch defense and hustle while also contributing offensively. Moreover, he has been instrumental in slowing down some of TNT’s perimeter players. If Ross continues to hit from the perimeter, SMB will have no problems marching towards the finals.

For TNT, two guys have been barometers for their wins and losses. They aren’t the wily veterans, RDO and Jayson Castro. Surprisingly, they are the young guns, Troy Rosario and RR Pogoy. Both guys average more points in their wins (Rosario: 11.5, Pogoy: 16.5) compared to their losses (Rosario: 2.5, Pogoy 7.5). Additionally, they hit more threes in their wins which indicate that TNT is sharing the ball well and distributing the wealth. The production from Rosario and Pogoy certainly helps their team more because TNT plays more guys off the bench and contributions from others lessen the pressure on RDO and Castro.

Some Adjustments

For the Beermen, an adjustment they ought to look into would be to give more minutes to their bench players because all of their starters are playing upwards of 32 minutes. Some even had games where they logged 40+ minutes. As the series gets longer, fatigue might come into play or foul trouble might disrupt the distribution of minutes. Thus, bench players might see more action, but if they aren’t used to playing often, their self-confidence and their trust in others aren’t there yet. Meanwhile, TNT uses more players and they go deeper in their rotation. They rarely have more than 2 players who play 30+ minutes. They are younger and fresher, so a longer series should benefit them more.

For TNT, they need to contain the rest of the Beermen. They cannot allow Chris Ross or others to get hot again. It might be better to go single coverage on JMF, instead of leaving perimeter players open when helping on defense. Fajardo hasn’t really dominated yet. He is averaging 19.3 points and 10.8 boards in 4 games which are lower than his elimination numbers. So, he is probably ready for a monster night. On offense, TNT also needs to get more from Jayson Castro. They cannot win the series if Chris Ross and/or Alex Cabagnot continues to score more than him.


SMB is feeling good and they have the momentum. They are tied in the series even though JMF has yet to fully exert himself. I think SMB takes game 5.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @rollzter

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