Five things Alab Pilipinas needs to do to turn things around

Marco Benitez on Mar 16, 2017 12:45 PM
Five things Alab Pilipinas needs to do to turn things around
Ray Parks (right) and the rest of Alab Pilipinas have lost three straight to the league-leading Hong Kong Eastern Long Lions.

As the 2016-2017 Asean Basketball League rounds up its elimination round in a matter of two weeks, the newbie Hong Kong Eastern Long Lions have stamped their class over a field which includes the heavily favored Singapore Slingers, defending champion Westports Malaysia Dragons, and fan-favorite Alab Pilipinas, whom they have beaten three straight times within the span of a little over a month.

The Long Lions of Coach Eduardo Torres have employed a pace and space type of offense anchored on newly-acquired NBA big man Josh Boone (who replaced world import Patrick Sullivan about a month ago) and driven by the uber-athletic backcourt of Marcus Elliot and Tyler Lamb.  As Alab Pilipinas learned firsthand, one can’t simply try to go toe-to-toe against the league’s best offense and hope to outshoot the best three-point shooting team in the ABL.

If Coach Mac Cuan’s wards want to steal a win from their tormentors and get themselves back on track, here are five suggestions, which, although easier said than done, I feel may help them get that elusive victory against the clear title favorites:

1.    Start Strong

In the three losses to the Long Lions so far this season, Alab started out extremely flat, allowing Hong Kong to get to a fast start and an early advantage; and never looking back. Whether it’s Marcus Elliot, Tyler Lamb, or even Lee Ki exploding early, first quarter scores have been 24-16, 33-18, and 24-12, all in favor of Hong Kong. By halftime, Hong Kong had already built sizeable leads – 18, 20, and 20 – proving too difficult to overhaul. Alab, as their name suggests, have to start like a house on fire and be the aggressor offensively and defensively. If their 2nd meeting (March 10) was any indication, they showed that they could match Hong Kong’s firepower for 3 quarters, except that the first quarter deficit was just too much to overcome.

2.    Defense wins championships

Hong Kong is currently the no. 1 ranked offense in the league, averaging close to 90 ppg and shooting a near 37% from beyond the three-point arc. In the three games against them so far, Alab has tried to outshoot the Long Lions and have earned painful losses in the process. They’ve allowed Hong Kong to dictate the pace of the game with their full court pressure and nearly run Alab out of the gym with their transition offense. I feel Alab’s best chance is to control the tempo by preventing Hong Kong from running and containing them halfcourt, where they are the league’s best in opponent’s FG% and 3-point FG% allowed (38.5% & 26.9% respectively). The Lions, though the worst in rebounding, have their own crew of scrappy role players, and there have been many times when Alab has defended them well for 23 seconds, only to give up an offensive rebound that led to a backbreaking 3 just when momentum was ready to shift Alab’s way.

3.    Rebound as if your life depended on it

The addition of Josh Boone (13 rpg) has shored up Hong Kong’s rebounding, although they are still last in the league at 38.5rpg. Alab, in contrast, is tops with 46.8rpg. In fact, rebounding and 2nd chance points have been the few bright spots in Alab’s matches versus the Long Lions. If they can continue to capitalize on controlling the boards, they can limit Hong Kong’s second chance points and prevent them from getting out in transition off of Alab’s misses (Alab is 5th in FG% at 41.4%).
4.    Take care of the ball

Probably the biggest weakness Alab has shown in their three losses versus the Long Lions is their susceptibility to turning the ball over. What is worse, instead of dead ball turnovers (where Hong Kong has to inbound from the sideline), most of their turnovers are live ones resulting in lay-ups, dunks, and even transition threes in the other end. Not only are these demoralizing momentum killers, they’re very uncharacteristic of a team of veterans who normally average a league-best 12.4 turnovers per contest. Alab’s turnover numbers in the 3 losses to Hong Kong are 21, 20, and 16, generating a whopping total of 63 turnover points for the Long Lions. Remember, Hong Kong leads the league in steals (10.5) and turnovers forced per game (19.7). You just can’t beat a team if you give up that many freebies.

5.    Trust the system and each other

Finally, as a fan of Alab Pilipinas, the only thing that hurts more than seeing them get outclassed on their home floor is seeing this group of pros - once top-ranked collegiate players all coming from winning programs – look lost out on the floor and play out of sync, or in Filipino, “magkanya-kanya”.

As someone who has watched, and even covered many of these once collegiate stars, I know that they are capable of much more. I honestly think deep inside they do to. They’ve shown flashes of it from time to time, even against the best in the league. I guess it’s just a matter of trusting the system that they’re in, and trusting each other that they’re willing to do what it takes to win.

They’ve got one more chance this Sunday.    

Catch Alab Pilipinas host the Hong Kong Eastern Long Lions this Sunday, March 19 LIVE on ABS-CBN S+A channel 23 and via livestream.

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