2021 PBA Philippine Cup Quarterfinals: Offense is the Clincher Between Defensive-Minded Magnolia, Rain or Shine

The third-seeded Magnolia Hotshots will take on the sixth-ranked Rain or Shine Elasto Painters in a best-of-three quarter finals series in the 2021 PBA Philippine Cup.

Original photos via PBA Images

Team Stats Comparison

TeamOffensive RatingDefensive RatingNet RatingPace
Magnolia100.5 (5th)94.1 (3rd)+6.5 (4th)88.4 (8th)
Rain or Shine90.8 (11th)92.1 (2nd)-1.3 (7th)84.4 (12th)
*Numbers courtesy of Stats by Ryan on Dribble Media

Key Individual Performers

Calvin Abueva, Magnolia: 16.1 points (10th) on 56.6% true shooting percentage, 9.7 rebounds (4th), 5.5 VORP or Value Over Replacement Player (1st), 3.3 DBPM or Defensive Box Plus-Minus (5th)

Javee Mocon, Rain or Shine: 12.9 points on 47.3 TS%, 8.6 rebounds (9th), 4.9 VORP (4th), 0.86 Defensive Win Shares (3rd), 5.0 Box Creation (10th)

Expect a slow-paced game and a grinding defensive battle

These are two high-ranking defensive teams that like to slow the game down on offense, as both of them are ranked in the bottom of the league in terms of pace. However, it’s also true that the Hotshots are a far better offensive team than the Elasto Painters. Magnolia is averaging a fourth-best mark of 90.6 points per game, while also dishing out a league-best 20.1 assists. 

Abueva, Paul Lee, Ian Sangalang, and Mark Barroca all average double-digits in the scoring column, and they are also quite adept in making plays for their teammates. The fact that their top players can consistently put up the buckets and also create scoring opportunities for their teammates is one of the main factors why the Hotshots have been very successful this conference. 

But the same couldn’t be said for Rain or Shine’s troubles on offense. They have the second-worst offensive rating in the league, and their shooting splits of 36.3/25.8/66.4 indicate just how inefficient they are on this end of the floor. However, the recent fine play of rookie Leonard Santillan and the scoring that James Yap brings to the second unit present a slight glimmer of hope for the Elasto Painters’ offense.

Lee and Yap fulfilling different roles 

We’re already past the argument on which team won the one-on-one trade deal that sent Lee to Magnolia and Yap to Rain or Shine in 2016. Lee has continued on an upward trajectory since then, while Yap has spiralled downward with all the consecutive injuries he had to deal with in the past few years. 

However, that’s not to say that Yap is currently of little value to the Elasto Painters. In fact, the scoring boost that he’s recently bringing off the bench has been one of the bright spots for Rain or Shine’s struggling offense. In the past three contests, the two-time Most Valuable Player has been averaging 10.7 points on an efficient 51.9% overall clip from the field, while playing only 17.0 minutes. In that three-game span, Rain or Shine was able to beat two elite teams in San Miguel and Magnolia, so there’s no doubt that Yap’s quality minutes is a driving force in his team’s recent victories.

On the flip side, Lee is still the go-to-guy for Magnolia. While it’s true that Abueva is the most complete player this conference (as mentioned by Dribble Media’s Ryan Alba in his recent BPC rankings), Lee is still the one that the Hotshots turn to when they need a basket, especially in the clutch. He’s still so good at drawing fouls and trooping to the free throw line, although we have to see if the Magnolia star can shoot the ball better in the playoffs, as he only shot a lowly 32.2% clip from the field during the eliminations. 

A huge test for an underrated young star

Having shown glimpses of his two-way potential last year, Javee Mocon has become Rain or Shine’s most valuable player this conference. The 26-year-old combo forward is still a walking double-double machine in scoring and rebounding, but he is also exhibiting major improvements in a particular facet in his skill set — his playmaking.

Mocon is averaging a team-high 3.8 assists, and is ranked 10th in the league in box creation (BoxCr), an advanced metric that “estimates how many scoring opportunities a player creates for his teammates based on his passing, playmaking, scoring, and shooting skills.” He still has a lot of room left for improvement in terms of his ball-handling and shot-creating, but you can’t ask more from a young player in just his third year in the pros.

On top of that, the body of work that Mocon does on defense is nothing short of tremendous. He is tied for 7th in the league in steals (1.5) and 3rd in defensive win shares (0.86). His balanced combination of length, strength, and mobility allows him to body up to his opponent and anticipate the passing lanes. 

Mocon has been quite under the radar this conference, but a couple of dazzling performances against Magnolia will put more watching eyes on him.

Prediction: Magnolia moves on to the semifinals

If the Elasto Painters want an added boost in their chances of winning, they could exploit the Hotshots’ tendency of committing a lot of fouls. Magnolia is second in the league in fouls committed (24.6), with Abueva averaging 5.1 fouls per 36 minutes (pace adjusted). If Rain or Shine can put Abueva in foul trouble, they would also be taking away the head of its defense.

Still, Magnolia is just so well-balanced on both ends of the floor right now. With Lee, Abueva, Sangalang, Barroca, and even Jio Jalalon, they have multiple players who they know they can rely on to consistently deliver the goods on offense. On the other side, even Mocon, the best Rain or Shine offensive player, has been relatively inefficient this conference. 

It will be a grind-it-out series, as you’d expect from a battle between these two teams, but the Hotshots are the favorites to win this bout.


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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