Numbers That Matter: Kelly Williams’ Defensive Impact and Magnolia’s Sputtering Offense

The TNT Tropang Giga took Game 1 of the 2021 PBA Philippine Cup Finals by handing out an 88-70 beating of the Magnolia Hotshots. Let’s look at the numbers that mattered and would matter in the next game.

(Advanced stats are courtesy of Stats by Ryan on DribbleMedia.com, an advanced stats and metrics platform for Philippine basketball.)

Original photos via PBA Images

63.6%

Ian Sangalang is a bad free throw shooter, as evidenced by his lowly 63.6% clip from the charity stripe in this conference. In fact, he only made 52.6% of his free throws in Magnolia’s semifinals matchup against Meralco. Sangalang played only 10 minutes last night due to back spasms, the same suspect that derailed Kelly Williams, but TNT managed to defend him well during that short span. Sangalang finished with five points and made only three of his nine attempts from the free throw line. Whether the Tropang Giga really intended to exploit Sangalang’s weakness or it was only a product of careless fouls, it definitely worked. 

Despite his struggles at the charity stripe, Sangalang is averaging 16.7 points this conference, ranking him 5th in the scoring column behind teammate Paul Lee, Barangay Ginebra’s Stanley Pringle, and NorthPort’s Robert Bolick and Greg Slaughter. He has been one of the more consistent scoring big men for several years now, as he has that feathery touch around the rim, along with an adept footwork that is better than most centers in the PBA.  

With agile bigs like Williams, Poy Erram, and Troy Rosario, TNT still stands a good chance of defending Sangalang on a single coverage, but they are more than willing to just send him to the free throw line if he doesn’t improve his efficiency in that area.  

21.4%

Since sustaining a shoulder injury in a collision with Reynel Hugnatan in Game 3 of their series against Meralco, Magnolia star Paul Lee has averaged a paltry 21.4% overall clip from the field in the last four games. During that four-game span, he has only produced 10.4 points, which is a far cry from his conference average of 16.9, along with a combined 2-of-20 shooting from the three-point line.

Of course, Lee hasn’t been the most efficient scorer in this conference. He is only averaging 32.4% from the field and 29.7% from deep, although his excellent 91.3% free throw shooting has boosted his true shooting percentage (TS%) to 51.4%. However, his recent string of performances is just downright bad, and it’s obvious that the shoulder injury has been limiting his movements.

If Lee cannot find a quick fix to his shooting woes, then he can focus his energy on making plays for his teammates. His assists averages (2.4) are not eye-popping, but he has a Top 10 rating of 5.03 in box creation (BoxCr), an advanced metric that estimates how many opportunities a player creates for his teammates based on his passing, playmaking, scoring, and shooting skills. Scoring is still Lee’s main calling card, but he certainly has that potential to be an effective playmaker for Magnolia in this series.

The Hotshots only had 11 total assists in Game 1 and committed a conference-high 28 turnovers. Ball movement will be an essential point for Magnolia’s improvement in Game 2, and Lee could definitely help out in that area.

2.67 

Kelly Williams’ defensive box plus/minus rating of 2.67 ranks third-highest in the league this conference, trailing his teammate Ryan Reyes (5.65) and Rain or Shine’s Mark Borboran (2.92). He has been the anchor of a TNT defense that places second in the league in defensive rating (94.5), so the unfortunate news of him sustaining back spasms in Game 1 will strip his team of its best frontcourt defender. The 39-year-old big man may not possess that elite vertical athleticism that he once had during his younger days, but he has good instincts and enough mobility to cover bases on defense.

On top of his impact on that end of the floor, Williams has also emerged as a weapon for the Tropang Giga’s offense. In this game-by-game analysis of the TNT-San Miguel semifinals series that Dribble Media’s Ryan Alba wrote, he pointed out how skilled Williams is as a passer and initiator. Williams can also hit the occasional three-pointers and he has enough spring on his feet to blow past “bigger” centers. In Game 1, he made both of his three-point attempts and tallied 10 points and 3 assists before he went down with the back injury.

It remains to be seen if Williams will be available in Game 2, but back spasms don’t easily go away. Even if he plays in the next game, his movements will be limited and the TNT coaching staff may have to restrict his minutes. 

Five

Five is the number of individual defenders that Magnolia tasked to guard Mikey Williams, but not a single one worked. Mark Barroca, Rome dela Rosa, Calvin Abueva, Loren Brill, and Jerrick Ahanmisi all took turns in defending the TNT scoring guard, but Mikey was simply on a roll in Game 1. He read the defense very well in pick-and-rolls, and punished the Magnolia defenders in isolation plays. The huge lead that the Tropang Giga created after the first three quarters had Mikey sitting out the final period, but he still finished with a game-high 21 markers built on five triples and added 10 rebounds and 5 assists to his tally.

This was quite a scary sight for Magnolia as Mikey has previously shown that when he gets in a groove, he has what it takes to ride that momentum for consecutive games. He had that inspired three-game span in the eliminations when he averaged 30.7 points on a highly efficient 57.9% shooting, including a scintillating 58.3% from the three-point line. His defenders may have to start putting double-teams or try blitzing him in pick-and-rolls, but Mikey’s fiery start to the Finals surely piled a heap of trouble on Magnolia.


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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