PBA Primer: Phoenix Rising From the Ashes

Phoenix is currently riding a three-game winning streak, thanks to their great defense and unselfish offense.

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Photo from PBA Images

PBA Wednesday Games (October 26, 2022)

Venue: Ynares Center-Antipolo

First Game: Phoenix Super LPG versus Rain or Shine Elasto Painters (3:00 PM)

Second Game: San Miguel Beermen versus NorthPort Batang Pier (5:45 PM)

Phoenix’s Ball movement

Phoenix Super LPGRain or Shine Elasto Painters
Offensive Rating99.8 (11th)106.5 (7th)
Defensive Rating99.1 (2nd)103.3 (4th)
Pace78.8 (7th)78.0 (9th)
Standing3-3 (T-6th)3-3 (T-6th)
*Stats per RealGM (as of 10/25/2022)

Previous Games: Phoenix won against Meralco Bolts, 89-82; Rain or Shine won against Meralco, 113-96

By winning their last three games, Phoenix is now in the thick of playoff contention with a 3-3 slate. Their defense has been superb; they currently rank second in defensive rating and they’re forcing their opponents to commit an average of 18.5 turnovers (second-highest in the league).

On offense, import Kaleb Wesson is getting more comfortable in the system, and Javee Mocon and Tyler Tio are putting in consistently good performances. The Fuel Masters have a lot of things to work on but by putting a premium on ball movement, they’re making the most out of their roster. Early on during their 0-3 start to the conference, Phoenix was one of the highest-paced teams, and this resulted in bad shots and an abundance of turnovers.

Recently though, Phoenix has decreased their tempo, as they’re only currently ranked 7th in pace. The turnovers are still at a high rate, but it’s an encouraging sight to see them put a premium on ball movement, and it starts with their import. Unless Wesson is right beneath the rim, his primary instinct upon touching the ball is to involve his teammates. He reads how involved the help defense is, and if he sees that there is a gap, he finds his guys at the right time.

Along with Wesson, the whole Phoenix squad is making timely cuts and finding their open teammates. Their three leading scorers (Wesson, Mocon, Tio) aren’t exactly great shot-creators, but they’re benefiting from the unselfish system that the team has on offense. Rarely you’ll see a Phoenix player score merely on pure isolation. Even in transition or semi-transition attacks, the Fuel Masters are moving the ball well.

Phoenix (league-best 23.7 assists) will be going up against a Rain or Shine squad (second-best 23.5 assists) that also gets a large chunk of their points off assists. With the unselfish offensive system that these two teams employ, this game between the two middle-pack teams will be exciting to watch.

New kid on the block

San Miguel BeermenNorthPort Batang Pier
Offensive Rating107.7 (6th)102.3 (10th)
Defensive Rating111.2 (11th)107.7 (8th)
Pace82.3 (1st)75.8 (11th)
Standing2-3 (11th)3-3 (T-6th)
*Stats per RealGM (as of 10/25/2022)

Previous Games: San Miguel won against NLEX Road Warriors, 124-116; NorthPort lost to Magnolia Hotshots, 109-91

Robert Bolick has cooled off quite a bit after an explosive start to the conference, but NorthPort is still pursuing a playoff seat with a 3-3 record. It’s expected that the Batang Pier’s offense will have troubles when Bolick gets bottled up, especially with their import Prince Ibeh lacking the ability to create his own shots. Ibeh is viewed as more of a defensive anchor, but NorthPort has not done enough to be good on that end, either.

Will Navarro, their newly-signed rookie, will be a huge addition to the team’s defense. With Navarro, Arvin Tolentino, and Arwind Santos, NorthPort now has three lengthy and mobile forwards who can disrupt passing lanes and also protect the rim. They don’t have the same explosive leaping ability that Jamie Malonzo (who they traded away in the offseason) has, but they have the defensive chops to cover their individual assignments and provide excellently-timed help.

It’s interesting to see how Navarro will get involved on offense, but his arrival should help boost NorthPort’s defense to the top half of the league.

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