#PBA2016 COMMISH CUP PREVIEW: MERALCO BOLTS vs NLEX ROAD WARRIORS - SIBLING RIVALRY

Images from the PBA/Inquirer.
Sister teams Meralco and NLEX have had contrasting fortunes so far this conference. Whereas Meralco has had a lot of success and is sitting pretty atop the team standings, NLEX has run into a lot of trouble and is currently mired int he middle of the pack. Both teams have never really been able to vie for any conference titles these past few years, but they’ve had their share of shining moments. Now they certainly want to get back on track after sustaining losses in their previous contests. Who will win this war between sister teams — the team that has won 5 of its last 6 games, or the team that is hoping to snap out of a funk with back-to-back defeats?

MER shot itself into a funk in its last game, losing to SMB. The Bolts, strangely enough, dominated the paint in that encounter thanks to import Arinze Onuaku, but they couldn’t get the complimentary perimeter game they need. Jimmy Alapag, Chris Newsome, Baser Amer, and Jared Dillinger all combined to shoot 0/16 from beyond the arc in that game. For sure, despite the fact they’re favored in this match-up, they’ll still need to rediscover their outside touch to pull out a win.

On the other end of the floor, NLX was thoroughly dominated by the Elasto-Painters in their latest defeat. NLX got buried on the boards, blasted in the paint, and coughed up more turnovers. Their defense in the halfcourt set or in transition was horrible, and they shot blanks from the outside. Without a doubt, coach Boyet Fernandez will demand for a much stronger performance from his wards, especially from their bench, which was outscored, 70-30, in their last game.



1. MER: ASSERTIVE ARINZE
- Arinze Onuaku was mighty assertive in MER’s last game, pouring in 28 points and hauling down 30 big rebounds. Against a team with Asi Taulava, Onuaku will need to continue being a near-unstoppable-force in the middle. He needs to address his two main weaknesses, though - getting into foul trouble, and bad free throw shooting.

vs SMB: 28pts, 30rebs, 3asts, 2blks, 13/17 FGs, 2/9 FTs, 5 fouls
Stats: 21.3ppg, 19.7rpg, 2.7apg, 1.7bpg, 68.4 FG%, 52.2 FT%.


2. MER: MISSING JIMMY
- Former Gilas PG Jimmy Alapag returned to action for the Bolts, but his presence was hardly felt. He shot just 1/6 from the floor for 2 points and had 0 assists against the Beermen. He missed all 5 of his 3pt attempts, and he played only 13 minutes in a starting role. Needless to say, he was outperformed by SMB’s Chris Ross and Alex Cabagnot. Jimmy’s back-ups, Baser Amer and Anjo Caram, also struggled with a combined 4 points in 34 minutes.

vs SMB: 2pts, 1reb, 0asts, 0 3pts, 13min
Stats: 5.3ppg, 2.0rpg, 1.3apg, 0/10 3pts, 30.0 FG%


3. MER: PICK UP THE PACE AND SHARE THE BALL
- MER has one of the slowest paces among all the teams in the league. They average the lowest points per game and also give up the fewest points for their foes. They also average just 80.5 FGA per game (3rd lowest), making just under 44%. In addition to this, MER is also dead last in assists. They assist only on 44% of their made field goals, which is 3rd lowest right ahead of Mahindra and NLX. To return to the win column, the Bolts will have to focus their energies on pushing the pace and sharing the ball.

MER stats:
Scoring - 90.5ppg (#12)
Scoring allowed - 89.0ppg (#1)
FG% - 43.7% (#10)
3pt% - 28.9% (#11)
Assists - 15.5apg (#12)
Fastbreak pts - 10.7ppg (#5)


4. NLX: BENCH SUPPORT?
- NLX’s back-ups were no match for ROS’s in their last game. The Painters’ bench mov outscored the Road Warriors’ 70-30, and that’s surely something coach Boyet will need to address if they want to come out with a win here. NLX will need more production from the likes of Simon Enciso, Mac Cardona, and Gabo Lanete if they are to put up a better fight against the Bolts.

Last Game Bench Pts - ROS 70, NLX 30
Rob Reyes: 12pts, 8rebs
Simon Enciso: 7pts, 3/9 FGs
Garvo Lanete: 7pts, 1reb, 1ast, 2/8 FGs


5. NLX: NASAAN ANG ALAS?
- Kevin Alas started the conference really well, but he has since dropped off in his production. He was the only starter in their previous game to score under ten points, and that really hurt NLX’s cause. He will need to rediscover his sharp form if they are to put up a big challenge against the Bolts here.

vs ROS: 4pts, 0rebs, 4asts, 1stl, 2/7 FGs
First 3 games: 11.3ppg, 2.0rpg, 47.8 FG% (NLX was 2-1)
Last 2 games: 6.0ppg, 1.0rpg, 37.5 FG% (NLX was 0-2)


6. NLX: DEFENSIVE DEFICIENCY
- NLX is the league’s worst defensive team and one of the worst rebounding squads, too. They get outrebounded by around 8 per game, and that cannot be the case against a team like MER, which has a dominant import at the slot. The Road Warriors will have to clamp down on defense and really battle on the boards if they are hoping to pull the rug from under MER.

NLX Stats:
Scoring allowed - 111.2ppg (#12)
Rebounding - 44.2rpg (#11)
Rebounding allowed - 52.2rpg (#12)


7. KEY MATCH-UP: SEAN ANTHONY X CHRIS NEWSOME
- Anthony and Newsome are two of the most productive swingmen so far this conference, and their match-up will certainly be one to watch. Anthony likes to attack the basket and operate in the paint, while Newsome enjoys attacking from the perimeter and being on the break. These two contrasting styles should give the fans something exciting to see in this game. Also, Newsome may be tasked to defend NLX import Al Thornton, which is a pretty tall order.

Anthony last game: 24pts, 4rebs, 4asts, 1stl, 6 triples, 9/22 FGs
Newsome last game: 13pts, 7rebs, 10asts, 2stls, 3 triples, 5/15 FGs

Anthony stats: 15.6ppg, 10.0rpg, 3.6apg, 1.4 triples per game, 46.7 3pt%, 49.0 FG%
Newsome stats: 11.3ppg, 3.5rpg, 2.0apg, 43.3 FG%



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