Different PBA Conference, same Magnolia Hotshots.
The paint-scoring and physical Hotshots continued their winning ways into the 2021 Honda PBA Governors’ Cup with a 109-98 victory over the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters. With the win, Magnolia has now rattled off consecutive wins following a finals loss to the TNT Tropang Giga in the Philippine Cup.
Seven Hotshots players scored at least eight points, with import Mike Harris leading the way with 26 points. Harris and the rest of Magnolia could not be denied inside as they scored 54 points in the paint.
The efforts of Henry Walker and Rey Nambatac, who each scored 23 points, went for naught as they committed 16 turnovers in the loss. Apart from Walker, Nambatac, Jaycee Mocon (20 points), and Beau Belga (14 points), no other Elasto Painter scored more than four points.
After scoring 31 points in the first quarter, Rain or Shine would score no more than 25 points in the next three quarters. The high turnovers certainly did not help their cause, as they could only muster 28 points in the paint and four fastbreak points.
The Hotshots were able to survive a tough outing from Paul Lee, who had bouts of inconsistency that could be attributed to his shoulder injury. Today was one of those off days as he missed all eight of his shot attempts and scored all four of his points from the free throw line. The Tropang Giga made this a point of attack as they knew that an on-target Lee will only make Magnolia a tougher cover. That the Hotshots have an import who can offset Lee’s misses can at times mask this issue, but teams with more defensively apt imports will even the numbers game.
Crucial to Magnolia as well was the passing that helped unlock the team’s overall offense. Much of that was thanks to the work of Jio Jalalon, who had a game-high 10 assists on just a single turnover. He knew when and where to get everyone involved and that allowed him to find his own shot enroute to 14 points and gave credence to quality over quantity as Rain or Shine actually had more assists (25) than that of the Hotshots (20).
At 2-2, the Elasto Painters will have to go back to the drawing board with their defense. They can score all they want as evidenced by their 50 bench points against the Hotshots, but allowing Magnolia to attempt 22 free throws and make more than 50 percent of their two point attempts certainly won’t help them win any games. Rebounding could also be a looming issue if not addressed as second chance points, although only 18-14 in favor of the Hotshots, added to their woes. Other teams will capitalize on this as the likes of TNT, the San Miguel Beermen, and Barangay Ginebra can punish them.
Getting to the free throw line more will also be another welcome development as only four Rain or Shine players went to the free throw line compared to the six for the Hotshots. Magnolia is known to be quite the physical team and the Elasto Painters missed a grand opportunity to get the Hotshots, particularly Calvin Abueva (one foul), into foul trouble. Ian Sangalang and Mark Barroca had four fouls each but the likes of Harris, Abueva, and Jalalon easily picked up the slack.
Magnolia will have their work cut out for them as they will face the currently undefeated Ginebra on Christmas Day. Things will likely get tougher for Rain or Shine as they will take on the Tropang Giga on December 26, with both teams hoping to get over .500. Given how they ran through the competition in the last conference, it’s safe to say that their current record doesn’t reflect their potential.
The Magnolia Hotshots could not have asked for a better start to their Governors’ Cup campaign after what was a tough ending to their Philippine Cup stint. Strong wins could only help them build their confidence moving forward, but these victories are not without their areas for improvement, which other teams could expose later on in the tournament.
Meanwhile, the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters continue to search for answers. There remains enough basketball to be played, but the margin for error has now gotten thinner.