#PBA2016 PHILIPPINE CUP PREVIEW: MERALCO BOLTS vs STAR HOTSHOTS - BOUNCE BACK BATTLE

Much has been said about the Bolts’ woes this season, while the Star Hotshots are in the middle of adjusting to no longer having coach Tim Cone. Both teams are coming off losses, so it’s apparent that both will be raring to bounce back in this encounter.

MER has been floundering despite coming into the season with a lot of promise. Going down 0-6 will surely be among the worst starts in coach Norman Black’s career, and perhaps that’ll be an undeniable signal that some major things need to change. If they win, however, then maybe this team as it’s currently constructed may yet hold some hope.

STA has fared pretty well considering how neophyte head coach Jason Webb is steering his club in the middle of an adjustment period. They have gone on a lose-win-lose pattern, which means they are definitely hoping this game against the winless Bolts ends up a W. They will need all the momentum they can get, too, since their next two opponents are Alaska and SMB.




1. GARY GRANADA
- Fresh from scoring 40 points on BAR, Gary David led MER in scoring again with 18pts against GIN. Needless to say, El Granada has been doing his share on offense, but with the way his supporting cast has been coming up short, David may have to continue carrying majority of his team’s scoring load even now against the Hotshots.

1st 3 games: 14.3ppg, 3.3rpg, 1.3spg, 1.3 triples per game
Last 2 games: 29.0ppg, 6.0rpg, 1.0spg, 5.0 triples per game


2. CLIFF HODGE: MISSING LINK
- Cliff Hodge is coming off his best season in the PBA, and he looked splendid in his first three games this season, but, lately, he has been ordinary. He seems to be the missing link for this club, and he needs to regain his borderline superstar form for the Bolts to get back on-track.

1st 3 games: 13.3ppg, 11.0rpg, 2.3apg, 1.0spg, 1.0bpg, 48.6 FG%
Last 2 games: 1.5ppg, 6.5rpg, 0/8 FGs


3. MER: SPUTTERING ON BOTH ENDS
- There are two simple reasons MER has been floundering this conference — they are sputtering on offense and they have also been terrible on defense. They are close to the bottom in average points scored and are dead worst in terms of points allowed per contest. They are next to last in 2pt FG% and dead last in FG% allowed. Needless to say, the Bolts need to play really well on both ends for them to have a shot at beating the Hotshots here.

MER - 
87.2ppg - 10th
45.1 2pt FG% - 11th
6.2 triples per game - 10th
46.9 FG% allowed - dead last
99.0 pts allowed - dead last


4. QUICK-MELTON: SET TO MAKE HIS MARK?
- On a team as deep as STA, it’s easy for someone like Justin Melton to sink into the background and be overlooked, but he made his presence felt in the Hotshots’ last game. He led the team in scoring and waxed hot from long range, playing toe-to-toe with TNT’s Jayson Castro. If Melton can repeat that kind of production here, MER will be in huge trouble.

Melton last game: 25pts, 1reb, 2asts, 6 triples
Melton stats: 10.2ppg, 3.8rpg, 2.6apg, 1.6 triples per game, 30.8 3pt%
*averaging career-highs in points, rebounds, assists, and FG% so far


5. PINGRIS: SAKURAGI MODE
- Marc Pingris has been quite inconsistent this season, but he was definitely on Sakuragi mode in STA’s last game. Even if they lost to TNT, Pingris still made sure that his presence was felt in that encounter. He put up his first double-double of the season, and that may be a good sign of things to come for Ping and the Hotshots. Of course, that’s assuming he can continue to play at a high level here against an underperforming MER frontline.

Last game: 17pts, 12rebs, 2asts, 1stl, 2blks, 7/11 FGs
Stats: 9.6ppg, 8.0rpg, 2.8apg, 62.5 FG%
*Ping’s current FG% is a career-high


6. STA: PROTECT THE BALL
- Star is a pretty good and deep team, but one glaring problem for them is turnovers. In their previous game, STA turned the ball over 20 times, which TNT was quick to pounce on. The Hotshots actually average more than 17 turnovers per contest. Only ALA and GIN average more turnovers. Without a doubt, even against a desperate team like MER, the Hotshots need to protect the ball better.

Last game turnovers: STA 20, TNT 10
STA turnovers: 17.8 TOpg - 10th


7. KEY MATCH-UP: GARY DAVID X JAMES YAP
- This game may end up having a classic shootout between two of the best shooters in the modern history of the PBA — Gary David and James Yap. Both are fan favorites and streaky as hell, and if either one or both catches fire, we all win! Things are more dire for David, though, as the Bolts can ill-afford to fall to their sixth straight loss, while Yap surely wants to regain his touch and push the Hotshots back into the win column.

David last game: 18pts, 5rebs, 2stls, 3 triples, 6/14 FGs
Yap last game: 9pts, 2rebs, 1ast, 1blk, 0/5 triples, 4/16 FGs

David stats: 20.2ppg, 4.4rpg, 1.0apg, 1.2spg, 2.8 triples per game, 40.0 3pt%, 46.8 FG%
Yap stats: 14.4ppg, 2.4rpg, 1.2apg, 0.8 triples per game, 19.0 3pt%, 37.0 FG%



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