At the heart of Magnolia’s spotless start in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup is a tightly knit group whose chemistry was developed long before the new season got going.
“The nice thing that’s going on here is our chemistry,” said Jio Jalalon, who led the locals with his 20 points and eight rebounds in the 107-92 win over Phoenix in Antipolo City.
“Chemistry was built right from the jump,” added import Tyler Bey, who was solid yet again for the Hotshots with his 32 and 16. “It’s been a while since I’ve been in a good group of guys that I could just get along like brothers—like family. Probably since college.”
The Hotshots have won two straight games—13 all in all, if one were to count their sweep of the off-season caravan where Bey was also a close spectator.
So cohesive was Magnolia that coach Chito Victolero hardly seemed bothered when asked if he was concerned about his charges’ 16 assists that night—eight less than their total in their conference-opening win against TNT the other week.
“We’ll learn from this,” he said. “[We know] that if we play solid, elite teams, we’ll need to increase our assists. The target is to have 25 to 30 a game.”
Victolero pointed out that the Hotshots simply saw an edge on mismatches, which is why spectators hardly saw them “moving the ball.”
“A win is still a win. Even if we had two assists, as long as we got the win, then that’s OK,” he said.
As Magnolia reveled in its early winning streak, Rain or Shine, meanwhile, is starting to reach for the panic button after dropping its first two matches.
“At this point, our worry is we get into a deep hole and [then we’ll have to] try to climb out of that hole,” Painters coach Yeng Guiao told reporters on the heels of a 113-103 loss to NorthPort earlier that night.
“We’re doing a lot of things wrong. In our two games, we’ve started badly,” he added. “Once you get into a bad start, you’re always struggling to get back. We need to address our bad starts. My other concern is our effort and energy levels. [The lack in both were] evident in the game.”
Though not pinning his problems on his import, Guiao feels that while DaJuan Summers could use a nudge defensively. “I’m happy with his offense. He fits our running, three-point shooting schemes, but we need to push him to rebound more and be a factor in our defensive schemes. It seems he was disappearing in that end during the game a while ago,” he said.
“Sometimes he does a good job. Sometimes he gets into lapses. I think we just need [consistency] from him.”
As the two clubs navigate their contrasting paths, both will have some ample time to do reflection over their respective streaks. Magnolia’s next test will be this Friday, while Rain or Shine won’t be playing again until Saturday.
“The agreement is we keep on grinding until the final buzzer,” said Jalalon. INQ