The Meralco Bolts had a strong start to their Commish Cup, but they faltered in the end, while the Batang Pier were just inconsistent all throughout and got eliminated in the end.
The Bolts are looking for a spark to their campaign in this season-ending conference. They surely want to duplicate their strong start last conference, but I’m sure they also want to finish even stronger.
GlobalPort’s season has been up-and-down. They need to find a spark that will give them renewed energy, especially since they have better chances in this conference with their two promising imports.
Here are some things to watch in this game:
MER won its first five games last conference, beating even powerhouses like Ginebra, Rain or Shine and eventual champion TNT. Many felt the Bolts were on their way to their best finish ever, but they lost 5 of their last six elims games and got the boot in the semifinals at the hands of ROS. Coach Norman Black will surely pull out all the stops in trying to propel his team to even greater heights this conference.
First 5 elims games: 5-0
Last 6 elims games: 1-5
Quarters: beat NLX, 2-0
Semis: lost to ROS, 0-3
One bright spot last conference, however, was the strong play of former Gilas shooting guard Gary David. David had a bit of a slow start this season in the Phil. Cup, but he really picked things up in the Comm. Cup. If El Granada can continue to flash the form that made him one of the top SGs last conference, MER may just surprise a lot of people again.
Season stats: 14.2ppg, 2.7rpg, 1.7apg, 1.6 triples per game, 36.7 3pt%, 41.4 FG%
Comm Cup stats: 17.0ppg, 2.6rpg, 1.8apg, 2.1 triples per game, 41.0 3pt%, 43.2 FG%
Hoping to add new fire to the Bolts is renowned NBA D-League player Andre Emmett, who has a glowing CV. He was Consensus First Team All-American in 2004, a two-time NBA D-League All-Star, and was the All-Star Game MVP this year. He normed around 23 points per game for the Fort Wayne Mad Ants and made about 1.5 threes a game this past season. He will score like crazy for Meralco, but I’m not sure he addresses their biggest concern, which is their thin frontline. If Emmett can go crazy with the rebounds and interior defense, he may make MER a surprise contender again like what happened in the Commish Cup with Josh Davis.
D-League stats: 22.6ppg, 5.4rpg, 2.7apg, 1.7spg, 1.6 triples per game, 37.3 3pt%, 52.3 FG%
MER’s other import, Iranian-American Benny Koochoie, is another interesting prospect. It has been reported that MER’s original choice was Iranian NT point guard Mahdi Kamrani, but that plan fell through, so here they are with Koochoie. Unlike Kamrani, Koochoie isn’t a regular fixture in the Iran NT, but he should still be a reliable contributor. His size makes him a good fit to play around three positions for MER, and his outside shooting, when paired with Gary David’s, should make the MER offense quite potent.
Iran Superleague stats with Gorgan: 11.8ppg, 3.8rpg, 2.5apg, 1.9spg, 1.8 triples per game, 36.4 3pt%
On the other end, GLO’s main weakness seems to stem from the fact that they don’t share the ball very well. This is a team that was second-to-the-last in assists per game last conference. They averaged around 14 assists per contest, but they made an average of around 34 field goals per game. That means that for most of the team’s possessions, the ball doesn’t move around and the team relies, more often than not, on individual skill. That won’t cut it, of course, so this issue has to be addressed this conference.
GLO assists per game: 14.2apg – 11th in the league
– At least now, though, GLO will plug its gaping hole in the middle by adding 7-footer Patrick O’Bryant. He was able to lead Taiwan Beer to the SBL Finals this season, and they even erected a 3-1 series lead in the best-of-seven. Sadly, they squandered that and defending champion Pure Youth Construction prevailed. O’Bryant can be an interesting fit for the Batang Pier, though, as he is relatively mobile for his height, and isn’t afraid to mix it up in the trenches. I wouldn’t be surprised if he dominates inside and carries GlobalPort into the realm of contenders.
Taiwan SBL stats (Taiwan Beer): 19.5ppg, 12.9rpg, 2.3apg, 1.9bpg, 1.3spg, 1.4 triples per game
MER’s other import, Palestinian guard Omar Krayem, looks to be an unknown quantity. Gilas has never faced him in international tournaments, because Palestine has never qualified to any FIBA Asia senior competition (except the 2014 Asian Games), but he comes with impressive numbers from his stints in Sweden and Mexico. If Krayem, who is advertised as a speedy and aggressive guard with strong outside shooting, proves to be the real deal, then he should form a really deadly wing combo with Terrence Romeo and Stanley Pringle.
Swedish league stats (Umea club): 20.7ppg, 4.7rpg, 7.1apg, 1.7spg, 49.3 FG%, 36.8 3pt%
Mexico league stats (Mineros de Caborca): 23.1ppg, 4.0rpg, 7.4apg, 2.8spg, 4.9 triples per game, 51.2 3pt%
Speaking of the backcourt, that’s really something that has become GLO’s strength this season, and that’s something they should continue to leverage in this conference. When they’re on, Romeo and Pringle are practically unstoppable, and that combo has proven a couple of times that it can be one of the best in the league. If both Romeo and Pringle, together with Krayem, can find a way to play harmoniously and get their teammates involved a bit more, GLO may just be a dark horse contender this conference.
Romeo season stats: 18.1ppg, 3.0rpg, 2.2apg, 1.8 triples per game, 31.5 3pt%, 40.9 FG%
Pringle season stats: 13.8ppg, 6.7rpg, 4.2apg, 1.6spg, 30.2 3pt%, 46.7 FG%
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