#PBA2016 PHILIPPINE CUP PREVIEW: STAR HOTSHOTS vs MAHINDRA ENFORCERS - BOTTOMS UP

Both STA and MAH are currently mired near the bottom of the standings with identical 2-6 win-loss cards. With two teams getting eliminated after the first round, both the Hotshots and Enforcers are teetering on the edge and living dangerously. A win here should certainly strengthen their stock to remain in the top ten and perhaps change their fortunes as they try to move up from the bottom .

Images are from Paul Ryan Tan/PBA.

The Hotshots had promising start to their campaign going 2-2 in their first 4 games, but they have since lost their last four assignments. They will end their conference against MAH, BAR, and BLA — certainly all winnable games — but they cannot afford to be complacent. Of course, a loss to MAH here could change everything and perhaps even be a signal for them to have to change some personnel. 

MAH, on the other hand, has had a very interesting campaign. They started the season 0-4, but have since won two of their last four outings. They also nearly upended Ginebra last week, and have clearly sent feelers throughout the league that this is no longer a pushover team. The Enforcers are definitely capable of pulling off an upset here, and they need to do so lest they fight for their quarterfinals lives with the likes of MER and BLA.  

1. YES YES YAP
- James Yap seems to have rediscovered the form that made him one of the league’s top scorers in the past. Right now, the Bacolod and UE product is leading his team in scoring and is actually among the top ten scorers in the entire league. There have been many adjustments in coach Jason Webb’s new system, but it seems like Yap has benefitted a lot from these. Can he continue doing that against MAH today?

Last game: 22pts, 2rebs, 1ast, 3 triples, 8/14 FGs.
Stats: 17.5ppg, 3.4rpg, 1.1apg, 1.6 triples per game, 31.0 3pt%


2. MISSING PING?
- Marc Pingris has long been the heart and soul of the Hotshots, and it seems he is playing a bit better this season despite the new system the Hotshots have. He did, however, struggle in their last game against SMB, where Ping put up just 7 points and 5 rebounds. He will surely need to do much better against MAH, which doesn’t have the superstars the Beermen do, but which has a lot of hardworking frontliners like Mark Yee and Bradwyn Guinto.

Last game: 7pts, 5rebs, 2asts, 1stl, 1blk, 3/8 FGs.
Stats: 10.6ppg, 6.8rpg, 2.8apg, 55.2 FG%


3. STAR: KANYA-KANYA NGA BA?
- In the midst of a 4-game slump for the Hotshots, James Yap recently explained that it seems like the team has gone on “kanya-kanya” mode instead of prioritizing teamwork. 

“Sa nakikita ko kanya-kanya. Hindi namin nagagawa yung pinapraktis namin araw-araw. Siguro kasama na rin doon yung bagong sistema. Kumbaga nakawala kaming lahat sa kwadra. Parang excited lahat, parang lahat gusting magpakita, gusto lahat gawin,” said Yap (from InterAksyon)

Coach Jason Webb, meanwhile, took the brunt of the blame for his team’s woes. 

“I just got to do a better job. We were turning the ball way too much and that’s it. I’ve got to do a better job preparing the guys of getting them ready. We can have that excuse na kasi bago yung sistema kaya laging nagti-turn over, but at the end of the day, I’m the coach. I should find a way for them to speed up that process and I’m willing to take that responsibility,” said the rookie coach (from InterAksyon).

Against a team as dangerous and unpredictable as MAH, the Hotshots surely would want better team play. STA is, in fact, dead last in the league in assists, and that is certainly something they need to change moving forward.

Last game assists: SMB 26, STA 14
Star assists per game: 15.4 (dead last in the league)
*STA assists only on around 15 of their 34 made field goals per game. That means more field goals are scored off 1-on-1 plays or put-backs, which isn’t a very good sign for any team.


4. GUINTONG (GOLDEN) ROOKIE
- Don’t look now, but so far this season the rookie that has really been turning a lot of heads has been MAH’s very own Bradwyn Guinto. He is living up to his surname as the Fil-Australian has played like a golden find for the Enforcers. Despite being picked outside of the first round, he is outplaying most of his rookie peers, and he will certainly need to play well here against veterans like Marc Pingris, Rafi Reavis, and Yousef Taha. He has been on a bit of a slump in most of his last few games, though, so he will need to rediscover that fire to really play well.

Last game: 12pts, 12rebs, 1stl 1blk, 6/11 FGs.
Stats: 8.6ppg, 9.3rpg, 1.0bpg, 59.2 FG%
*Guinto is among the league leaders in FG%, rebs, and blks.


5. MARK YEE: HARD WORK PAYS OFF
- Mark Yee has long been a journeyman in the PBA, getting traded from one team to another on practically a seasonal basis. Still, he has lasted this long because of his tenacity, persistence, and hard work. His coach, Chito Victolero, only has nice words to say about Yee’s dedication and desire:

“You should see him during practice. He’s been setting an example. I’m so happy for him,” assistant coach Chito Victolero said after MAH won over MER a few days ago. (Interaksyon)

Yee stats this season: 11.0ppg, 9.2rpg, 1.4spg, 1.1bpg.
Yee stats last season: 5.0ppg, 4.3rpg.
Career stats: 4.8ppg, 2.9rpg.
*Yee is among the league leaders right now in rebs, blks, and stls.


6. MAHINDRA: TURNOVERS HURT
- One thing that MAH will need to check in today’s game is turnovers. That’s one big reason they lost to SMB in their last game, and one thing that may be a problem here. The Enforcers have to take much better care of the basketball especially against a team with very good guards like Mark Barroca and Justin Melton. 

Last game TOs: MAH 22, SMB 19
Last game Pts off TOs: MAH 13, SMB 21
Last game
Revilla - 4 TOs
Ramos - 4 TOs
Dehesa - 3 TOs
Pascual - 3 TOs


7. KEY MATCH-UP: MARK BARROCA X LA REVILLA
- The battle at the PG spot will be critical in this game. Barroca had a good outing despite STA’s loss to SMB, while Revilla struggled a little bit as MAH also lost to the Beermen in their previous games. Without a doubt, both playmakers’ productions will be essential to their respective teams’ success here, though, so whoever is able to better orchestrate the offense for his team should be able to come out with the victory.

Barroca Last game: 15pts, 8rebs, 4asts, 4/8 FGs.
Revilla Last game: 8pts, 6rebs, 6asts, 2stls, 2 triples, 3/9 FGs.

Barroca Stats: 9.5ppg, 5,6rpg, 2.9apg, 1.0spg, 1.4 triples per game, 47.8 3pt%, 38.7 FG%
Revilla stats: 13.1ppg, 4.1rpg, 4.9apg, 2.0spg, 1.3 triples per game, 37.6 FG%


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