Beat me once, shame on you. Beat me twice, shame on me.
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The Mono Vampires lost out to the Pilipinas Kings (then Pilipinas Aguilas) in their season opener and ABL debut. It was a really good game played by the Vampires and if a couple of calls went their way, they would probably not be known as the only winless team in the ABL.
Alas, 4 games after that and the Vampires are still stuck without a win. They’ve been close, but never quite their yet. They pushed defending champions to the brink. They gave the Singapore Slingers a scare. They almost pulled it off against the Saigon Heat but broke down. They almost pulled off the biggest upset against the KL Dragons, but things just weren’t meant to be.
And now, they are back at the start.
The Vampires are still stuck in the bottom 2 of most statistical categories which is of course what you would expect from a team that has yet to secure a win, but at least they still have their defense doing for them. Their 15.1% block rate is first in the league by leaps and bounds, and they are only allowing 37.7% field goal percentage which is 2nd behind defensive juggernauts, Hitech Bangkok City. The Vampires need a boost in a hurry and it seems like fate that they would be going up against the one team right now that is ripe to be victim.
The Pilipinas Kings are vulnerable. Since their debut win, they have yet to win a game but unlike the Vampires, they have been completely blown out of the water. Their recent game against the Slingers looked close at only an 8 point deficit, but the two previous loses to the KL Dragons and Hitech Bangkok city by an average of 23.5 points shows how bad they’ve been.
Their struggles are not a case of lack of talent. Willie Miller, Sunday Salvacion, and Val Acuna are certainly in line for the best locals in the league. While I can’t say the same for Charles Mammie, AZ Reid has been doing his job as the team’s World Import as well. Lack of talent certainly hasn’t been a problem.
What has been a problem is the lack of consistency in the upper level. The management has just been changed and the Coaching situation as well. Jack Santiago replaced Zauldy Realbuit only 2 games into the season, and it seems like he’s still just getting used to the players. It shows in the numbers when you look at their abysmal 44.7% assist rate which is the lowest in the ABL. Their effective field goal percentage is only at 39.5% which is sitting way below the rest of the pack of the ABL.
Like to the first game between the two, Anthony McClain should have his way against the inside players of the Kings. Charles Mammie has yet to show that he can stop anyone on the post and I don’t expect him to magically improve against McClain in this game. Guard play will be a factor in this game as Eric Salamat has been dropped off the roster. He did a good job of playing defense and pushing the game in the first time around and now with only Willie Miller and Nico Elorde, look for Kannut Samerjai (who has been on a tear from long range) exploit that.
Update: It was recently updated after this article was finished that Eric Salamat will be returning to the MX3 Pilipinas lineup. In his 2 games that he played, he averaged 4.0 points, 2.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists, and 2.5 steals.
One interesting thing to look forward to is the rumor swirling aroud the Mono Vampires practice camp that there might be some additional locals that might be introduced in this game, with the names of SEA Games Center, Teerawat Jantajon, and TBL Star, Chitchai Ananti, being thrown around. I’m not one to be easily intrigued by rumors, but this one is just potentially too juicy to ignore.
X-Factor: “JO” Ratdech Kruatiwa
After starting off averaging 4.67 three point shots per game in his first three game, Ratdech Kruatiwa has missed an astounding 17 straight three-pointers. Eventually, the misses have got to stop at some point and I don’t see him going through another game without hitting a three point shot. The Pilipinas Kings now know that he is a three-point threat, but I still think he will be able to find a clean shot.
I’m still waiting on the Mono Vampire staff to run a set where Kruatiwa can get a clean shot rather than dribbling his way into a fadeaway twisting cannonball.
If the Mono Vampires play at the level they’ve been playing and the Kings play the level that they’ve been playing, I think it will be very hard for the Kings to steal another one from the Thai squad.
I see the Vampires taking this game by 11 points.