Mahindra Floodbuster stumbles at the start
JAMES White led Mahindra to an explosive four game winning streak to start the competition just two conferences ago.
That seems almost a lifetime ago as the Mahindra Floodbuster stumbled against the Meralco Bolts during their first game of the 2017 Philippine Basketball Association Commissioner’s Cup.
White was his usual productive self with 33 points, 16 rebounds, and four blocks. But it simply wasn’t enough as the Floodbuster lost to the Bolts, 94-86.
This was a far cry from last season’s 2016 Governor’s Cup where Mahindra roared off to a franchise best with 4–0 record. Mahindra went on to finish with a 6-5 record after the eliminations and made its first ever appearance in the PBA playoffs.
The team did eventually lose to the Meralco Bolts in the quarterfinals but Mahindra will be hard-pressed to repeat that winning performance. For one the height limit of the other teams that conference was 6’5” while Mahindra’s import was 6’9” tall.
White simply dominated the other imports and needed to be double- and triple-teamed by locals of opposing teams.
That wasn’t the case against Meralco which paraded an even bigger import in Alex Stepheson. It was Stepheson who enjoyed the size advantage and it was Stepheson who needed to be double- and triple-teamed inside the paint by Mahindra.
Another more compelling issue may be the Mahindra’s decimated lineup. They may not be all-stars but Niňo Canaleta, Aldrech Ramos, Paolo Taha and Keith Agovida—who were with Mahindra in the Governors’ Cup—were certainly more formidable than their replacements.
The four, who were the best players of Mahindra last season, were called up to reinforce San Miguel Corporation teams. Canaleta and Ramos went to the Star Hotshots. Taha went to Ginebra and Agovida to San Miguel Beer.
White is experienced enough to understand that change is the only constant in team competitions and that it will be up to him to adjust and make up for whatever lack the team has.
They were right there though. Mahindra almost pulled out the victory. Trailing by four points, 82-86, Mark Yee was at the front end of a fastbreak attempt but somehow lost the handle allowing Meralco to steal the ball.
At the other end Chris Newsome drove down the middle and Mark Yee made a matador defense allowing him to score unmolested on a layup, 82-88,
Mahindra couldn’t score at the other end. Yee again missed his defensive assignment giving Cliff Hodge space at the three-point distance. Hodge drilled the open three-pointer to push Meralco to an insurmountable, 82-91, with less than a minute to play.
White is back and the Floodbuster has got him. Whether that translates to another winning conference is another matter entirely.