2015-16 PBA PH Cup Preview: NLEX Road Warriors vs Barako Bull Energy
DUEL OF THE DARK HORSES
- Niether NLEX nor Barako Bull is considered a title favorite or even promising contender to win any title this season, but, given the right opportunity and a little bit of luck, both clubs are capable of springing an upset here and there. This time, however, these dark horse teams will be the ones locked in a duel to determine who stays with the early leaders this conference.
- NLEX is coming off a good win in its opening assignment, bucking a slow start to fend off the Blackwater Elite, 90-86, behind the double-double of Asi Taulava and the hot shooting of “The Filipino D-Rose” Simon Enciso. They have a golden opportunity to go 2-0 if they win against BAR here, so they shouldn’t squander this chance.
- BAR will be playing just its first game of the season, and they certainly want to open on a high note. They won just 41% of their games last season, and they look determined to improve this time around, especially against a team that finished below them in last season’s cumulative standings.
1. BIDANG BAGUHAN: SIMON ENCISO
Enciso wasn’t really the most highly-touted rookie coming into this season, but he impressed a lot of people after hitting five three-pointers and scoring a total of 15 points in NLX’s win over BLA. He is known as the “Filipino D-Rose” and he certainly showed flashes of that in his first game. The key question, of course, is was it a fluke, or can Enciso consistently produce at a high level for the Road Warrriors?
Last game: 15pts, 3rebs, 3asts, 5 triples, 5/8 FGs.
2. MAY ASI-M PA SI ASI!
After playing mostly as a third-string center for Gilas 3.0, Asi Taulava reminded everyone why he is still among the best big men in the country, unloading 19 points and 12 rebounds against BLA. Asi was practically unstoppable in that game, with guys like JP Erram, James Sena, and Jason Ballesteros hardly able to contain him. Against a BAR team that also doesn’t have the deepest frontline, Asi may just dominate anew.
Last game: 19pts, 12rebs, 3asts, 1stl, 1blk.
3. ALL-AROUND ANTHONY
Sean Anthony provided a big lift off the bench for NLX, flirting with a triple-double as he recorded 14 points, 12 rebounds, 7 assists, and 2 steals. He will need to be more efficient in terms of shooting the ball, though, as he made just 5/14 FGs. Anthony looks to be this team’s main weapon in the second unit, so it’s very important he continues to do well against BAR.
Last game: 14pts, 12rebs, 7asts, 2stls, 5/14 FGs.
4. NLEX: GET TO THE LINE
One key factor in NLX’s last win was the fact that they were able to be aggressive in attacking the basket, and that resulted in their being awarded 29 free throw attempts. The problem is they made only 15 of those shots for a low 52% success rate. NLX should continue being aggressive in order to increase their chances of getting free throws, but this time they cannot afford to miss so many if they hope to beat BAR.
NLX FT leaders last game:
Sean Anthony – 4/6
Jeckster Apinan – 2/5
Asi Taulava – 7/14
5. JC INTAL: FRESH FROM GILAS
JC Intal donned the national colors for the first time this year, playing for Gilas 3.0 in the 2015 Jones Cup and 2015 FIBA Asia Championship. He was mainly a back-up for the likes of Gabe Norwood and Calvin Abueva, but he did have some interesting highlights in those tournaments. Now that he’s back from that experience, the expectation is that he will be even better than he was last season. Can Intal put up gaudy numbers again and really become this team’s leader?
Last season: 12.8ppg, 5.7rpg, 1.9apg, 1.4 triples per game.
In 2015 FIBA Asia: 3.8ppg, 2.3rpg, 1.3apg.
6. ONE MORE CHANCE: MAC BARACAEL & JAMES FORRESTER
Both Baracael and Forrester were promising when they entered the league, but both have since dropped off and have been seemingly forgotten. Baracael was in limbo with Ginebra after two exciting seasons with Alaska, while Forrester never really seemed to catch a break since entering the league in 2013. Now that they’re both in BAR, it seems both have been given one more chance to prove they belong at this level.
Baracael last season: 7.0ppg, 2.9rpg, 1.2apg, 1.3 triples per game.
Forrester last season: 1.4ppg, 1.0rpg, 22.2 FG%.
7. PLAYMAKER PAIRING: RR GARCIA & JERIC FORTUNA
Garcia and Fortuna have pretty similar skill-sets. Both have great change of pace mechanics. Both are pretty good playmakers. Both are also deadly and streaky outside shooters. It’ll be interesting to see what the dynamics will be at point guard for BAR, but for sure they have one of the most promising young backcourts in the league with these two.
Garcia last season: 9.7ppg, 2.7rpg, 1.8apg, 1.1 triples per game, 28.6 3pt%, 41.2 FG%.
Fortuna last season: 3.2ppg, 1.1rpg, 25.5. 3pt%, 37.8 FG%.
8. BANGGAAN NG MGA BIDA: JC INTAL VS SEAN ANTHONY
The match-up between swingmen Intal and Anthony should be crucial in this encounter. Both are versatile players who can contribute in many ways. Whereas Intal is the more polished offensive operator, it seems like Anthony can balance that out with his versatility and tenacity. The pressure will be on Anthony to try and contain Intal, while the pressure is on Intal to carry BAR on his shoulders.
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