2015-16 PH Cup Playoff Preview: Barangay Ginebra Kings vs Star Hotshots
If memory serves, this will be the first time ever that these two storied teams will meet on Christmas Day in the Philippine Cup quarterfinals. It’s awesome enough that when these two meet, they draw the crowds in and always put up an amazing show, but now that the stakes are much higher than before, this meeting carries an even greater degree of drama and importance. And to have it on Christmas Day too! There’s no better treat for the true PBA fan.
Ginebra started the season rather disappointingly, winning just one of their first four games, but they have since done really well, winning 6 of their last seven outings. They are certainly one of the hottest teams right now this conference and it shouldn’t come as a surprise if they start peaking in the playoffs. The very first loss they absorbed, though, was at the hands of Star, which wallopped Ginebra, 86-78 last October 25. Without a doubt, the Gin Kings will come into this game with payback in their minds.
Star, for its part, has gone 2-2 to end the elims, beating lowly clubs Mahindra and Blackwater but succumbing to solid teams SMB and Barako Bull. The Hotshots have been unpredictable this season so far, but one of their best outings was surely their W over Ginebra early in the campaign. They’ll need to repeat that feat twice over, though, if they are harboring any chances of getting past the Kings and moving to the next phase.
1. GREGZILLA- A MONSTER OF A MAN
– Greg Slaughter would be very tough to stop for any PBA team, especially now that he is having his best pro season so far. Greg is currently averaging career-highs in scoring, rebounding, assists, and FG%. In his last game against Star, he had a monster line, dropping 28pts and 16rebs, while shooting 67% from the field. Against the likes of Rafi Reavis, Yousef Taha, Norbert Torres, and Marc Pingris, Gregzilla should be very productive again.
Last game: 27pts, 14rebs, 2asts, 3blks, 12/19 FGs
Stats: 23.5ppg, 15.0rpg, 3.2apg, 1.4bpg, 55.6 FG%
Last game vs STA: 28pts, 16rebs, 4asts, 1blk, 12/18 FGs
2. JAPETH LIKE IT’S HOT!
– Japeth Aguilar has always been an amazing physical specimen, and he is always mentioned in conversations about potential. This season, however, the talented Pampanga native has been putting up his best numbers as a pro. He is averaging a career-high in scoring while also becoming a consistent double-double threat. He has become somewhat of the perfect complement to Greg at the frontline, and the more games they play together (and with coach Tim Cone), it seems the more comfortable and productive Japeth is becoming.
Last Game: 17pts, 7rebs, 2asts, 2blks, 1stl, 1 triple.
Stats: 17.3ppg, 8.1rpg, 1.8apg, 1.3bpg, 51.1 FG%
Last game vs Star: 26pts, 16rebs, 4asts, 1blk, 12/21 FGs
3. Ginebra: LOW AND SLOW
– Ginebra likes to keep the scoring low and likes to play slow ball to maximize their size advantage as much as possible. This can be seen in how low Ginebra’s scoring average is and the fact they are dead last in fastbreak points. Star, however, also plays quite slow. The Hotshots are 10th in scoring and 11th in fastbreak points. At a slow pace, however, it seems Ginebra should have the edge, so Star may want to push the pace a little more against the Kings’ bigger team.
Ginebra ppg: 86.9ppg (dead last)
Ginebra ppg allowed: 84.7ppg (#1 defensive team)
Ginebra FG% allowed: 38.4% (#1 in the league)
Ginebra FT atts allowed: 10.6 per game (best in the league)
Ginebra fastbreak pts: 9.2ppg (dead last)
FG attempts per game: GIN 77.7 (#12), STA 78.1 (#11)
4. PJ PUNCHES IT!
– One guy who needs to light it up for Star is their second leading scorer, PJ Simon. After scoring in double-figures for the first 5 games of the season, PJ hit a slump of late, but he exploded in a big way in their last game, making 26 points. Can he continue scoring heavily against a defensive-oriented team like Star, whose coach also knows Simon’s style of play so well?
Last game: 26pts, 1reb, 4asts, 1blk, 5 triples, 8/14 FGs
Stats: 11.9ppg, 2.4rpg, 1.5apg, 1.1 triples per game, 41.4 3pt%, 46.1 FG%
Last game vs Ginebra: 12pts, 3rebs, 4asts, 1stl, 1 triple.
5. ALLEIN + ALEX: DOUBLE A POWER!
– Two other guys who are expected to do well are bench players Allein Maliksi and Alex Mallari. Given their size, both players pose potential match-up problems at their positions, and if this can be exploited by coach Jason Webb, then the Hotshots may be able to pull the wool over the Gin Kings. Maliksi is a streaky shooter, while Mallari is a big point guard, and both can certainly put a lot of pressure on Ginebra’s vaunted defense.
Last game Allein: 13pts, 1reb, 1stl, 3 triples
Last game Alex: 11pts, 5rebs, 2asts, 3stls
Allein stats: 4.3ppg, 1.6rpg, 46.3 3pt%, 43.3 FG%
Alex stats: 9.3ppg, 4.7rpg, 1.3apg
Last game vs Ginebra combined: 9pts, 4rebs, 2asts, 2 triples, 3/14 FGs
Allein Maliksi scored 13 points, including a perfect 3-for-3 from three-point range, while Alex Mallari added 11 markers, both off the bench.
6. Star: STOP COUGHING IT UP!
– One thing the Hotshots need to really address is turnovers. They currently have the worst turnover average in the league, and allow nearly 17 points off turnovers per outing. That cannot happen against a GIN team that is coming into this series with so much confidence. In their previous game against Ginebra, though, Star limited their errors to only 13 and forced 17 GIN turnovers. If they can have a repeat performance of that here, they should be in great shape to win.
Star turnovers: 19.6 topg (worst in the league)
Star pts off turnovers allowed: 16.5 per game (3rd worst)
7. KEY MATCH-UP: MARK CAGUIOA X JAMES YAP
– Without a doubt, much of the attention in this game will be placed on this pair of veteran guards. Judging by their numbers, it seems they have begun to go their separate ways. Mark is slowing down his production, while Yap remains his team’s #1 option. In a game/series carrying so much weight, though, expect BOTH guys to assume leadership roles and face off against each other again.
Last game Caguioa: 5pts, 5rebs, 2asts, 2/11 FGs
Last game Yap: 6pts, 2rebs, 1ast, 1 triple, 2/6 FGs
Caguioa Stats: 8.1ppg, 3.6rpg, 2.4apg, 14.3 3pt%, 34.8 FG%
Yap Stats: 15.7ppg, 3.9rpg, 1.2apg, 1.7 triples per game, 28.6 3pt%, 38.1 FG%
8. LAST MEETING: STAR BEAT Ginebra, 86-78
– Star got off to a rousing start in their win over GIN, outgunning the Kings, 37-13, in the 1Q. Ginebra was able to regain their bearings after, but the Hotshots’ cushion was just too big. Despite having the edge in rebs, asts, and FG%, Ginebra just couldn’t complete their comeback try. This was compounded by the Kings’ woeful 3pt shooting and the fact that they turned the ball over 17 times.
Rebounds: Ginebra 53, Star 46
Assists: Ginebra 22, Star 18
Turnovers: Ginebra 17, Star 13
3pts: Ginebra 3/16, Star 10/26
Yap (Star): 19pts, 3rebs, 1ast, 1stl, 1 triple, 7/17 FGs
Greg (Ginebra): 28pts, 16rebs, 4asts, 1blk, 12/18 FGs
Japeth (Ginebra): 26pts, 16rebs, 4asts, 1blk
9. THE TIM CONE FACTOR
– One of the most interesting angles in this game is coach Tim Cone leading the Kings against his former team. Cone knows Star’s players and coaches so well, so the chess match happening along the sidelines will be interesting. Star may have the lower seed and the 2x to win disadvantage, but they have a secret weapon in Tim Cone, who is arguably the best coach in PBA history.
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