Fajardo’s Low Free Throw Count, Questions for Meralco’s Defense, and What to Watch on PBA Wednesday

The 2021 PBA Philippine Cup Semifinals resumes on Wednesday with another double-header slate at the Don Honorario Ventura State University Gym in Bacolor, Pampanga. The first game will pit the TNT Tropang Giga and the San Miguel Beermen at 3:00 p.m., followed by a battle between the Magnolia Hotshots and the Meralco Bolts at 6:00 p.m.

Let’s look at some things we’re looking forward to on PBA Wednesday.

Photo via PBA Images

Maybe more free throws for the six-time MVP?

After sitting out last year to recover from a major injury, June Mar Fajardo understandably saw his workload on offense drastically go down this conference. He still logged a significant amount of minutes in the eliminations, but he wasn’t as assertive in looking for his shots as compared to previous years. In fact, Fajardo’s 27.7 offensive load rating is just ranked 5th among San Miguel players, placing him behind teammates Terrence Romeo, CJ Perez, Mo Tautuaa, and Alex Cabagnot.

However, Fajardo displayed some bursts of aggressiveness in the first game of their semifinals series against TNT. He hauled in a double-double performance of 13 points and 11 rebounds, and took advantage of single coverages in the post, especially in the payoff period. But it’s still surprising that Fajardo’s increased aggressiveness did not result in a higher free throw count as he only trooped to the free throw line twice. 

There were a couple of missed calls where the officials should have rewarded Fajardo with trips to the charity stripe, and the six-time Most Valuable Player certainly deserves that respect. Still, it’s great to see Fajardo getting more involved in the Beermen’s offense, and that should be a scary sight for the Tropang Giga’s defense.

The Kelly Williams loss will hurt

Speaking of defense, the absence of Kelly Williams will definitely hurt TNT in more ways than one. Williams was recently placed under the league’s health and safety protocols, which means that he will miss a significant amount of games in the semifinals. Per Stats by Ryan, an advanced stats platform for Philippine basketball, Williams ranks first among frontcourt players in the league in defensive box plus/minus (DBPM) with a rating of 3.6. 

Williams is the anchor of a Tropang Giga defense that ranks first in defensive rating (88.7) this conference. He may not be the elite athlete that he once was and he will not be able to contain Fajardo on a single coverage, but he has active hands (1.6 steals) and he can effectively switch onto smaller and quicker players. Up against a powerhouse San Miguel squad with tons of offensive arsenal, losing Williams, their anchor on defense, will be detrimental to TNT’s winning chances in the next couple of games.

How will the Meralco defense respond?

Magnolia had five of their key players put up double digits in the scoring column in Game 1, helping them take a 1-0 lead in their semifinals series against Meralco. Ian Sangalang, Paul Lee, Calvin Abueva, Jio Jalalon, and Mark Barroca combined for 71 of the Hotshots’ 88 total points, and that’s a trend the Bolts’ defense can’t allow to happen again if they want to win this series.

It’s difficult to defend a team with five of its key players clicking on offense as all of them ride a high level of confidence in their shots, making them even tougher to guard. Meralco has to pick their poison on defense and live with other Magnolia players taking the shots instead of those names we mentioned in the first paragraph. 

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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