So after I spent the past few days crying in a corner, mourning Thailand’s two consecutive losses, I finally got down and got myself together enough to capture the overall experience of the SEABA Stankovic Cup 2016.
There will still be parts where I am desperately sad, but I tried to keep my composure throughout the end.
So…when I last wrote my diary, Thailand was coming off a monstrous win over Singapore and while Philippines were casually beating down teams as well, it had seemed like Thailand had actually had a chance to rattle the ASEAN Basketball throne that is the Philippines. Yes, I acknowledge that this Philippines team was a Cadet squad which comprised of barely graduated players and 3 more who are still in school (because it seems like the entire population of the Philippines has reminded us Thai fans about that) but still, Thailand beating any team that bore the name of the Philippines on their jerseys would have been a great achievement.
But in the end, it was never meant to be.
Thailand assembled a very good well experienced squad, had home court advantage, and had two shots at beating the Gilas Cadets. Thailand caught the Philippines on their worst shooting night (36.1 FG% and 8.1 3P%, both tournament lows for the Philippines) and still couldn’t beat the Philippines despite pushing the game to the very last second.
In the end, no matter how much the Philippines were missing, they would still hit the shots that counted the most.
This would bring back memories of this shot by a particular Kiefer Ravena, who also threw in the dagger in Thailand’s face in SEA Games.
/pauses to go cry in a corner
/wipes tears and continues
Even then, when all hope seemed lost for the game, Troy Rosario rolled the knife into Chitchai Ananti’s hands for an attempt to put in the final blow. Still, lady luck wasn’t on their side.
Thailand has lost the first match 66-65. A lot of Thai fans went home with hope in their minds that this was well fought and that the rematch on the following Saturday in the Championship game would even closer, myself included. But that was me thinking as a fan. Thinking as a pure basketball fan, it was hard to envision that these Philippines players would come out in a second game shooting blanks like they did here.
Not only did they not have a bad shooting game, they might have had the best shooting game they had in this tournament (12/32, 37.5 3P%).
Thailand tried to keep the game within striking distance but things happened and the Philippines broke away on a barrage of three point shots to win the game by a wide margin. The final score was 97-80, but it was closely contested for more than half of the game.
Thailand’s sweet chances to bring upon the upset went down the drain and their window of opportunity closed shut for this tournament, but at least they were still able to secure their main focus in this tournament, which was to qualify for FIBA Asia Challenge.
Getting one of those two slots and winning a silver medal wasn’t a bad outcome at all.
/eyes gets all watery again
During the awards ceremony, I rushed down to get a signature of players and coaches on both Thai and Philippines National Teams. I had secured all of the Thai National team players signatures while I was still on the court as they were being mobbed like rock stars. But I still needed to fill out my white Pilipinas jersey out. I searched out for Coach Josh and in an awkward case of things leading to other things, I found myself in the Philippines locker room once again.
The trophy stood in the middle of the locker room. The players had exhausted their celebrations on the court earlier. Everyone was quietly glancing into their success during the past few days.
Coach Nash, Coash Josh, and Team Manager Antonio Butch took their turns in their congratulatory speeches. The gist of the message was pretty clear: everyone was proud and everyone thanked them for their sacrifices to represent the nation. Not all of them had been the first choice for this team. Some weren’t even the second choice. But in the end, they got the job done.
I got their signatures as the players were separating to hit the showers and the final master piece was something that can still bring tears to my eyes.
To some, maybe it was only two jerseys; one filled with signatures of Thai professional players who couldn’t beat a group of amateurs from the Philippines and another filled with a bunch of amateurs from the Philippines. Be that as it may, to me, this was a token that proved that these 24 players (and a couple of coaches and staff) were all here together in one place at one point in my life and they played two of the most entertaining basketball games I have ever watched live.
( With all do respect to Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia, I would have went on and got all signature from all 5 teams if I had all of their team jerseys, but this is the best I could do.)
I lingered for a few moments after the dust settled. Mostly it was because I was hungry and was chomping down on pizzas at the pizza stand, but it was also to just absorb in everything for the last time.
It was an unbelievable experience for me during this entire week to witness everything that went down here at Stadium29. The SEABA Stankovic Cup might not be the most prestigious basketball event, but it still was a sign that basketball was developing in the right direction. Baby steps they maybe, but it’s still taking steps forward.
Now that all of that was over, I was able to sit back and do what I enjoyed doing most which was diving into the numbers.
I think I’m a little more attached with numbers and statistics in basketball than the average basketball fans and even then, I would also be the first to admit that stats aren’t the tell tale of the entire story. You can’t just look up box scores and proclaim that this and this and that happened.
Still, I think that statistics do help in illustration of what we had just witnessed and assist in our comprehension of that.
Let’s start looking into those numbers:
I know I’m going to sound like a broken tape, but Thailand was set out to be the best defensive team in the tournament and (for the majority of the tournament) they were. And the numbers back that up. Throughout the entire tournament, they allowed the least field goal percentage (28.0%) and least 3P percentage (33.6%). I guess they had some luck involved in the shooting performances of the Philippines (as mentioned above) but you still can’t deny that Thailand always forced the opposing team in to difficult shots.
(except for that time when they switched to an awkward 1-2-2 zone against the Philippines which I didn’t really understand and which gave up a load of three pointers)
Their outstanding defense was also anchored by the fact that they led the tournament in blocks (4.0 per game) and block percentage (1.6 BLK%). This wasn’t because of their superior athletic ability, but more because of their defensive discipline to stick their hands up and change shot courses.
Thailand were solid on defense. As the saying goes, “Defense wins championships”. So why weren’t Thailand able to win the championship (other than the fact that the Philippines were more individually talented)?
In a way, the problem is their offense.
“Wait, you’re saying that the team that led the tournament in effective field goal percentage (42.1 eFG%) was not offensively good enough?”
When you put it that way…yes, hypothetical person, that is kind of what I am saying.
Yes, Thailand led the tournament in effective field goal percentage as mentioned. Their field goal percentage (36.2%) was only slightly worse than the tournament best by the Philippines (36.7%). Their players were aggressive at getting to the line (26.6 FTA/G, tournament best). Thailand led the tournament in assist ratio at 43.8 AST%. And yes, it was their offense that kept them from winning that title.
The same offense that led the tournament in assist ratio also had a 19.4 TOV%. It’s not the worst in the tournament (3rd) but it was still miles away from the 12.0 TOV% that the Philippines posted.
There was also a case of their three point shooting, which was supposed to be their main offensive weapon. Thailand had led in three point shots made (44). They also led in three-point shooting percentage by a large margin (34.1% to Philippines 26.2%). A total of 33.1% of all of Thailand’s points were from three pointers, also leading the tournament. But as they say, you live by the three, you die by the three. Thailand churned out their worst three point shooting in the title game (5/24 for 20.8%) and couldn’t find enough ways to score to compensate for that.
Thailand did a good job of stepping up as a contender, but they were still a couple of steps short.
Looking at the Champions again and you get a better sense of how big the gap between the Philippines and the rest of the ASEAN region is.
It was already expected that the Philippines (whatever team they brought) would be the cream of the crop of the tournament, but breaking it down into numbers put it in to an even more clearer perspective.
Coach Nash Racela had (and used) a very balanced roster, running a 10 man rotation whose minutes ranged from 15-22 minutes per game. Only Thailand had distributed their minutes as evenly as the Philippines (ranging from 14-21 minutes per game). And the Philippines did everything.
Shooting, penetrating, rebounding, passing, turning the ball over, blocking shots, stealing the ball, the Gilas Cadets were just doing everything.
There were a few numbers that clearly stood out however:
The Philippines simply annihilated the boards in the tournament. The numbers speak loudly for themselves.
Each of those rebounding percentages led the tournament by quite a significant margin. It was a team effort on the boards, of course, but they would not have been able to be so dominant if it wasn’t for Raymar Jose who led the tournament in rebounding percentage by a large margin (23.9 TRB%).
The bottom line was that the Philippines didn’t give you many second chances and they took as many as they could.
- Ball Possession
It would be a perfect time to joke about one keeping their balls to themselves…but we’re talking about serious issues here! The Philippines showed their composure the most in this certain aspect of the game. I felt this was where the difference was.
Amateurs they may be (with two pro players), but the players on this team have been battle-tested in continuous competitions so they know how to handle the different situations they would have to face. They had a turnover rate of only 12.0 TOV%.
- Trump Card
The Philippines had the advantage of having that one player who they could throw the ball to, sit back, and watch. Troy Rosario was easily the most advanced player in this tournament and it was easy to see no matter how inexperienced a basketball fan you were.
And of course he was. Rosario wasn’t the second pick of one of the PBA for no reason. There’s a reason he was playing a significant role for one of the top teams in the league right now.
Coach Nash didn’t use Rosario in this mode too often. It wouldn’t really help anyone in the long term, but every now and then when the Philippines needed a statement basket, they could just get the ball to Troy and clear the way.
PS. Mac Belo is almost at “Trump Card” level as well, too.
Those were what the Philippines had going for them.
Sure they had some trouble with their defense (28.9%, worst opponent 3P%), but that was also a case of the player rotation Coach Nash had them go through. When they looked to clamp down on defense, it was enough for them to have a 12.0 STL% (second to Indonesia).
They had their troubles with their big men scoring (Jose and Escoto aren’t your ideal inside options) but they offset that with having Tolomia, Jalalon, Rosario, and Belo continuously driving inside to get those points in the paint.
Despite not having a lot of time to prepare, the Philippines did well to acknowledge their shortcomings and found ways to fill in the holes.
Most of all, they made shots when they needed to.
/wets keyboard by crying while typing
Okay, I went on for quite a while without acknowledging much of the rest of the competition in the SEABA Stankovic Cup. Starting with the 2nd runner up team, Singapore.
While the two teams mentioned above were two of the deepest teams in the tournament, Singapore had less resources to work around with. Half of the team were role players on the recent squads, while half of the team were new to the scene. It was reflected in the minutes distribution of the team. Delvin Goh, Leon Kwek, John Ng and Toh Qin Huang bagged in the top 4 spots of the minutes played per game category. With that young core, they went all the way to a bronze medal.
Singapore did a good job of scoring within that three-point line. They were actually the best team apart from the Philippines to do it, shooting a 41.4% from inside the arc. That number is slightly inflated by the 12/14, 24 points performance against Indonesia by Shengyu Lim but Singapore still did a pretty good job of utilizing their Big Man, Delvin Goh, in the paint.
They did well for such a young team throughout the entire tournament, but there were still a couple of questions that were raised about how they played.
A certain opposing team’s coach had told me that he was surprised by how slow they played. It was not that Singapore was running slowly, it was just the pace of the game. The numbers coincide with this statement. Singapore had a pace of only 78.8 while the remaining 4 teams were not lower than 84.9. I guess that this sort of helps the coaches to be able to control the younger players more easily, saving them from turnovers if they rush in to score too quickly. It also saves them from the physical disadvantage when finishing on the fastbreak. So more often than not, Singapore pulled the pace down to halfcourt set.
That was sort of surprising, but not entirely too surprising. Singapore has always been a slow paced team. They were the slowest team in SEA Games (70.0 pace) and the Singapore Slingers of the ABL have always cooled the tempo of games. No, I think I was used to Singapore playing this pace.
It was more of the fact that at this slow halfcourt pace, Delvin Goh only had a usage rate of 19.4 USG%. Despite Singapore camping in the halfcourt for most of the time, their big man finished 5th in the the team’s usage rating. While I understand that Delvin was also a facilitator who got the ball around (led the team with 16.0 AST%) it was still baffling why he didn’t go beast mode in the post more often.
Despite that, Singapore did play with a poise that seemed beyond their age and held on for two straight victories over Malaysia at the end to win the Bronze Medal. It was two very closely contested games and the Singaporean team stood their ground and got the victory.
Things didn’t go so well for Malaysia in this tournament.
Malaysia started out strong with a nice showing of their offensive potential against the Philippines. Wong Yi Hou looked like he was ready to break out with a 22 point performance. Chee Kheun Ma was hitting his shots. This was a Malaysian squad that might have been missing a few stars (Loh Shee Fai was the most glaring omission) but they had still managed to assemble most of the nation’s top players.
But the problems were all over the place. The most significant issue of concern was the defense where they allowed 35.5% from the field. It wasn’t a problem of slacking on defense but more of a problem of too much defensive intensity which led them to not being able to play that same kind of defensive pace for the whole game. Malaysia “led” the entire tournament with 25 fouls per game. Their inside trio of Kwaan Yoong Jing, Keuk Tian Yuan, and Ivan Yeo averaged about 4 fouls per game each making it hard to gain any defensive momentum inside. The fouls led to them being more wary of fouling out and it also led them to allow the most amount free throws per game (24.6).
The aggressiveness kind of worked both ways, as they also drew fouls at a 24.2% rate (second best) and the free throw line is where they got a major share of their points as well.
However, it didn’t really help that they weren’t getting their offense going at all.
Wong Yi Hou was a stud (we’ll talk about him later on) and score quite efficiently, blending a nice combination of penetrating, three-pointers, and free throws. His team mates wouldn’t be able to find that similar type of efficiency.
Keuk shouldered a lot of the offense and shot 27.9% off 12.2 attempts per game. Gan Hong Hoong played 26.6 minutes and took 8.8 shots per game, but ended up connecting only 18.2% of those shots. It just seemed like they never got a clear shot at the basket and even when they did, they couldn’t make the shot either.
This might have been a problem with their guard play. Malaysia didn’t have a true point guard (let’s face it, Ma is a gunner) so they went to Kwaan Yoong Jing to set up the offense. While it was entertaining, and his height got them some nice assists from the top of the zone, it created some awkward spacing problems.
I didn’t want to make the Malaysian team’s review sound this depressing but the flaws that they displayed were a bit too obvious. Whatever the case, this is a group of relatively young guys who have a high level of talent. All they need is to go back, realize what they need to work on, and they should come back next time more prepared.
This is awkward.
Indonesia were outclassed and outplayed be every single team in the tournament. Their offense looked directionless. Their defense could barely contain anyone.
It was just hard to watch.
They did fight back however, or at least they tried. Acknowledging that this group of players were probably not the first, second, or maybe even third choice, they still came out here and played their hearts out for their nation. I admire that.
But that still doesn’t take away the fact that they were out played in this tournament.
Maybe some other time, some other tournament, we’ll get to see Indonesia at full force. But it would not be today. Not here. Not now.
That concludes the Team Overviews of the SEABA Stankovic Cup 2016.
Read the Player Overview here.