A Red-Hot Paul Lee, TNT’s Shooting Woes, and What to Watch on PBA Friday

Photo via PBA Images

The 2021 PBA Philippine Cup Semifinals will continue on Friday at the Don Honorario Ventura State University Gym in Bacolor, Pampanga. The first game features the Meralco Bolts and the Magnolia Hotshots at 3:00 p.m., followed by a match between the San Miguel Beermen and the TNT Tropang Giga at 6:00 p.m.

Let’s look at a couple of interesting storylines heading into PBA Friday.

How will Meralco’s crumbling defense deal with Lee?

Aside from his very efficient free throw rate (89.2% on 7.3 FTA) this conference, Paul Lee has been horrendous with his shooting, as he is only producing a 31.9% overall clip from the field, including a paltry 30.7% from the three-point line. But the Magnolia star shot the lights out in Game 2, finishing with 28 points on a scintillating 50% clip from the field to lead his team to a commanding 2-0 lead against Meralco.

To pile more troubles to Meralco’s woes, starting center Raymond Almazan went down with an ankle injury and is now doubtful for Game 3 tomorrow. Almazan leads the Bolts in blocks (1.6), and his possible absence strips the team of its best interior defender. The gaping hole he left in Game 2 was very evident when Magnolia big man Ian Sangalang suddenly came to life in the fourth quarter, finishing with 16 points and taking advantage of Almazan’s absence and Cliff Hodge’s ejection.

Before this series against the Hotshots, the Bolts accumulated the fifth-best defensive rating in the league (97.4), and held opponents to a fourth-lowest mark of 84.4 total points per game and a third-lowest mark of 38.8% in field goal percentage. But so far, that high-ranking Meralco defense has failed in the semifinals, as they are giving up 90.0 points on 44% shooting to Magnolia. With their defense crumbling and the loss of Almazan’s defensive presence adding to their problems, the Bolts will face an even tougher challenge of containing Lee, Sangalang, and the Hotshots in Game 3.     

Photo via PBA Images

Pressure mounting on TNT’s shooters

Terrence Romeo and June Mar Fajardo took turns in taking over the San Miguel offense in Game 2, and a Marcio Lassiter game-winning putback capped a comeback win that saw them crawl back from a 19-point deficit. It was indeed a promising pair of performances from Romeo and Fajardo, but it’s the Beermen’s zone defense that was the driving force behind their Game 2 victory.

By employing the zone, San Miguel put a lot of pressure on TNT to hit their shots from long range. Unfortunately for the Tropang Giga, their outside shooters failed, especially in that fourth-quarter drought that saw them go 2-of-12 from beyond the arc. Throughout the game, Mikey Williams, Jayson Castro, and Brian Heruela only hit two of their combined 18 attempts from deep. TNT was successful in moving the ball against the zone and finding their open shooter, but they just did not hit their shots. 

If TNT continues to lay eggs in their three-point attempts, San Miguel will be more than happy to stay in the zone defense and hide Fajardo’s glaring weaknesses on the defensive end of the floor.

Advanced Stats are now available for Philippine basketball! Through Ryan Alba’s ‘Stats by Ryan’, you can now look at team and player advanced stats for the current 2021 PBA Philippine Cup (and the previous three seasons) via the Dribble Media website.

Check out this glossary for a list of the basketball advanced stats terminologies.

You can also contact Ryan via his Twitter handle (@_alba__).

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