The final gameday of the 2021 PBA Philippine Cup eliminations will feature another double-header bill on Thursday at the Don Honorario Ventura State University Gym at Bacolor, Pampanga. The first game will pit the Meralco Bolts against Barangay Ginebra at 2:00 p.m., followed by a battle between the NorthPort Batang Pier and the Alaska Aces at 4:35 p.m.
Here are some storylines that could dominate Thursday’s double-header.
What would the Ginebra rotation look like?
With their backs already up against the wall, the Gin Kings will troop to battle today possibly without three of their top players. Reports have it that along with the injured Japeth Aguilar ( MCL strain), Scottie Thompson has entered the league’s health and safety protocols, which means that he is definitely sitting out today’s game against Meralco.
Thompson is making a case as the most consistent and impactful Ginebra player this conference, ranking third in the league in Value Over Replacement Player (VORP), just trailing Magnolia’s Calvin Abueva and Mikey Williams. Per Stats by Ryan, an advanced stats platform for Philippine basketball, Thompson has an excellent 5.3 rating in VORP, which is an advanced metric that measures a player’s contribution by taking his Box Plus/Minus (BPM) and converting it into a “scale wherein a replacement-level player (a non-rotation player) is equivalent to zero.” Thompson’s high VORP rating spells his similarly-high value as a player, and there’s no doubt that he’s actually the best Ginebra player on both ends of the floor.
On top of the absences of Aguilar and Thompson, spitfire guard Stanley Pringle could also sit out the Meralco contest. Eros Villanueva of ESPN5 reports that Pringle is a game-time decision due to a “bone bruise in his knee on his femur.” If Pringle doesn’t recover in time, that would strip the Gin Kings of three of their top five players, with LA Tenorio and Christian Standhardinger left to lead the charge. Jeff Chan, who was recently reactivated to the lineup, will take up some of the minutes that Thompson vacated. MJ Ayaay, who had his burst of good moments this conference, will try to replicate Thompson’s energy and hustle.
Still, it would be a challenge to buck the absences of their top players, but Ginebra could hope that Meralco will also rest their top players since tomorrow’s game doesn’t have any bearing on their slate. They just won against NLEX a couple of nights ago, assuring them of the second seed and a twice-to-beat advantage in the quarterfinals.
Alaska’s mobile bigs to challenge Slaughter’s defense
The heartbreaking loss to San Miguel eliminated Alaska from playoff contention, but there’s no doubt that they still want to finish their campaign on a strong note, and they will be going up against a NorthPort squad that is just one win away from booking a playoff seat. With Robert Bolick and Greg Slaughter leading the way, the Batang Pier are the favorites to win this game, but they will be facing a tough challenge from a team that has nothing to lose.
Slaughter will have his defense tested by Abu Tratter and Rodney Brondial, two Alaska big men who had excellent scoring performances last night against the Beermen. Tratter finished with 24 points on an efficient 64% shooting, while Brondial produced 17 markers on a 50% clip from the field. They did not get their points by sealing the much bigger June Mar Fajardo deep at the post — they often received the ball away from the paint then proceeded to challenge the 6-foot-10 San Miguel big man’s lateral defense on their way to the rim. Most often than not, Fajardo wasn’t able to keep up, and that was how Tratter and Brondial proved to be successful against the six-time Most Valuable Player.
Slaughter could try to just sag off for him not to lose in the speed game, but that would not work against Tratter, who also has a dependable mid-range shot in his bag. That’s where NorthPort’s help defense would come in, and it will be interesting to find out what defensive schemes they have in mind today.
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__).