#PBA2015 COMMISH CUP GAME 7 PREVIEW: IT ENDS TONIGHT

- It has been a helluva series so far, complete with comebacks, close calls, scuffles, towel swipes, jersey pulls, jawing, yelling, and, well, everything but the neighbor’s cat. Jayson Castro has exploded. So has teammate Ranidel de Ocampo. Wayne Chism, too, has seen a few great games. Ditto with Chris Tiu and even Raymond Almazan. What started out as a series between two great teams who have been building up quite the rivalry, has transformed into a grit-and-grind affair laced with bad blood and controversy. Without a doubt, PBA hoop nuts will be treated to a slam-bang affair in Game 7. As fun as the ride has been, however, one thing is for certain — the series ends tonight.




Here are some things to watch in this winner-take-all contest.


1. WILL CASTRO DEFER OR TAKE OVER?
- The BPC of the 2015 Commish Cup is expected to be TNT’s main weapon, even more so than import Ivan Johnson. He is a whirlwind of a player and hardly anyone can guard him one-on-one, but he is also a ball-dominant guard who tends to struggle when the pace slows down and the defense pins him down. No doubt he has been the best local player this conference, but in the Finals something surprising has popped up — it seems that if Castro defers, TNT has a higher chance of winning. Look at the following stats:

In wins (Games 1,4,5): 6.7 assists and 1.7 turnovers per game.
In losses (Games 2,3,6): 5.0 assists and 3.0 turnovers per game.

Castro is perhaps TNT’s most versatile scorer, but what the numbers tell us is that, for the Texters to have a stronger shot at winning the title, the Blur will need to trust his teammates a bit more. Also, he’ll need to cough up fewer turnovers.


Will Castro take over, or defer?



2. IS PAUL LEE DUE FOR A BIG ONE?
- On the other end, we have Paul Lee, who, despite being an offensive dynamo and the second-best local in the conference, hasn’t really exploded yet in the Finals. Yes, he had 20 points in Game 2 and he hit 4 triples in Game 4, but, overall, he hasn’t been shooting really well. He has made just 44% of his field goals, which is down from the 50% clip he had when ROS swept Meralco in the semifinals. His career-high is 28 points, but he has reached the 20-point plateau in only one game in these Finals. If he can pop the cap and have a big game in Game 7, then ROS could be due for its first title since the 2012 Govs’ Cup.  

Semis stats: 20.0ppg, 50.0 FG%, 50.0 3pt%
Finals stats: 17.0ppg, 43.7 FG%, 40.0 3pt%


Is Paul Lee bound for an explosion in Game 7?


3. CAN DE OCAMPO KEEP ON DELIVERING?
- One guy who has really broken out in the Finals is TNT’s Ranidel de Ocampo. RDO came into the Finals averaging under 15 points a game, but he has really lit things up, norming more than 22 markers per contest in this series, including 27 per game over the last three. He has been on fire of late, but can he keep on delivering at such an extremely productive rate? Game 6 might have been a sign that he will slow down, since he shot just 33% from the field, but with RDO one never really knows. He is just so explosive he can shoot himself out of a slump and make the opposing team pay. 

First 16 games: 14.3ppg, 2.3 triples per game, 48.6 FG%
Finals: 22.7ppg, 2.3 triples per game, 50.0 FG%


Can RDO keep playing at this frenetic pace?



4. HOW RELIABLE IS ROCK N ROLL?
- One guy who delivered in a big way in Game 6 was starting center Raymond Almazan. He dropped an amazing 18-point, 10-rebound double-double on TNT in that game, and his production was a big reason this series isn’t over yet. That was, by far, his best game of the conference, but the question is can he do it again? How well will he play now that a title is on the line and against seasoned vets at that? Will Rock N Roll rise up to the challenge, or will he fade away like a tired old song?

First 5 games: 6.8ppg, 5.4rpg, 50.0 FG%
Game 6: 18pts, 10rebs, 80.0 FG%


5. WILL WE SEE IVAN THE TERRIBLE, OR AMAZING IVAN?
- Ivan Johnson’s numbers have been sliding since the start of the conference playoffs. He did really well against Barako Bull, but he was up-and-down against Purefoods, and has been more of a sparks-all-over sideshow in the Finals. He is, in fact, coming off his worst PBA game ever — just 6 points and 6 rebounds in Game 6. When he’s at his best, though, he is practically unstoppable. So which one will we get — the Ivan Johnson who just throws people around the court and is obsessed with reacting to provocation, or will we see the Ivan Johnson who hit 9 triples in the last elims game of this team?

Before Finals: 29.7ppg, 14.4rpg, 2.6spg, 3.0 triples per game, 45.9 FG%, 23.2 FGA per game
Finals: 20.8ppg, 10.0rpg, 0.7spg, 1.5 triples per game, 48.9 FG%, 14.7 FGA per game


Which version of Ivan Johnson will we see?



6. ARE YOU READY FOR WAYNE’S WORLD?
- In contrast, ROS import Wayne Chism seems to be playing better and better. He has had three 30-10 games in the Finals (Games 1-3), and just grabbed a conference-high 24 boards in Game 6. He has certainly been more productive than Johnson, so it’s reasonable to expect him to continue being the Best Import in Game 7. The question, of course, is will his uncanny production be enough to lift ROS to the crown, or will Wayne’s World come crashing down? 

Semis stats: 15.0ppg, 14.3rpg, 2 triples total
Finals stats: 25.3ppg, 15.3rpg, 1.7 triples per game


Will Chism be able to carry ROS to the crown?



7. CONTROL THE BOARDS TO CONTROL YOUR FATE
- With the exception of Game 3, TNT has allowed ROS to outrebound them in the Finals. Over 6 games, ROS has amassed 35 more rebounds than TNT, and though the Texters have been able to more or less survive that, they are playing a dangerous game. In Game 6, TNT shot under 30% from beyond the arc (below their series rate), and they weren’t able to compensate for that because they were outrebounded by the Painters (TNT was -12 on the glass). They can ill-afford to repeat that mistake in Game 7, where even a random tumble of the basketball can tip the scales in a big way. On the other hand, if coach Yeng Guiao’s boys can continue to dominate the boards, they have the inside track to victory.

Finals rebounding: ROS 49.8rpg, TNT 44.0rpg
Finals 2nd chance pts: ROS 14.2ppg, TNT 10.7ppg


8. WHO WILL STEP UP BIG TIME?
- Of course, another big thing to look at in Game 7 will be the supporting cast. Who will step up for either team at such an important match? Matt Rosser, Jireh Ibañes, Gabe Norwood, Jericho Cruz, Larry Fonacier, Jeff Chan, and Chris Tiu have all had their moments in the sun, but who will be able to bring the big guns on the biggest stage and really spark something in his team? I’m guessing we’ll see another Elasto-Painter explode, mainly because coach Yeng’s system lends itself better for anybody on his team to shine through, be it Ryan Araña, Beau Belga, JR Quiñahan, or even Jonathan Uyloan.


Can Jeff Chan step up again despite his injury?



9. THE BIG QUESTION: WHO WINS?
- I surely hope we don’t see a blowout. I want a tight, rock-’em-sock-‘em, leave everything on the hardwood showdown in Game 7. I want to see even more intensity and physicality. I hope we see another RDO slam. I want Jeff Chan to nail another impossible long shot. I hope Castro and Lee have a duel to remember. I want it to go down the wire.

And I’m picking Rain or Shine to be the steadier, less predictable team in the end. Will that be enough to win? I certainly think so.


All images by Pau Ryan Tan/Sports5.


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