The semifinals’ matchups have actually just completed their second games save for the Warriors-Jazz series which is still in its Game 2 as of this writing.
While there are teams that may be rusty or feeling the jitters in their first game, it actually tells a lot of what is to come in their matchups. This is why X factors become even more important after a loss, and eventually for teams to turn the tide in their favor for the rest of the series. CLICK HERE for ’em semis’ X factors.
Now, let’s check out the first games of the four semifinal pairings.
EAST: WAS 111, BOS 123
In the first game between the Wizards and the Celtics, we saw the C’s sink 19 threes en route to a Game 1 thrashing of the Wizards.
EAST: TOR 105, CLE 116
The Cavaliers showed no rust in their first game back after a long lay off instead we saw a familiar, jittery Toronto Raptors team.
WEST: HOU 126, SAS 99
With 22 made threes, how could the Rockets lose? What was surprising though was the kind of effort the Spurs displayed.
WEST: UTA 94, GSW 106
This game was more than just the Warriors’ fabulous 4, we all know how explosive they could be — ey, the Jazz was simply star-struck!
Bottom line: If you can’t get back to your strengths and utilize ’em X factors, it could be time to plan your vacation and go fishing!
Was only able to catch the live stream from the 3rd set onwards of the Sep 19 semifinal match between Thailand and China in the 2016 AVC Cup for Women currently played in Vietnam (14 Sep to 20 Sep). And the game ended with the Chinese beating the Thais.
Well, looking at how the Thais started the tournament — that is struggling in a 5-set victory over the Taiwanese on their opening match — it’s not really surprising that they would lose against the Chinese in the semifinals. Indeed, t’was sort of a premonition. The Thais just got off the wrong side of the bed.
See? In this match against the Chinese, they were even leading 2 sets to 1, but only to allow a Chinese comeback. How did this happen?
One. Thailand’s coach just kept shuffling his girls. While it’s good to rest the players and disrupt their opponent, constant shuffling prevented better and ‘long-term’ team cohesion. Besides, the strengths and weaknesses of the girls on the floor were not balanced.
Two. T’was #20 Soraya who was used more rather than #3 Pornpun, their current team’s best setter. So what happened? There were times, especially during critical moments that the balls were late — more so, the setting angles were not to the strengths of the spiker. Hmm…
THAI’S BEST SIX
For this team that the Thais brought to Vietnam..
#3 Pornpun. Key Skill: Setting. Secondary Skill: Receiving. With her on the floor, the ‘attacking engine’ of the Thais are in place. Take her out, they could lose to a good opponent.
#5 Pleumjit. Key Skill: Fast Attack. Secondary Skill: Blocking. Against taller and stronger opponents like the Chinese, Americans, Europeans and Latinas — Pleumjit’s quick plays would be less effective. However, her primary skill is reliant on a good setter; thus, if the timing and angles are well placed, she’s an indispensable weapon to have.
#18 Ajcharaporn. Key Skill: Power Spike. Secondary Skill: Fast Attack. Kongyot is probably the best power spiker in Thailand today. With her athleticism, she’s just wonderful to watch doing a back row attack — only few has that kind of power. So just imagine her side attacks as well.
Being athletic, she should vary her attacks and try ‘quick plays’ every now and then to confuse opponents.
#4 Thatdao. Key Skill: Blocking. Secondary Skill: Power Spike. Though Thatdao is known to be a power spiker, only few must have noticed that her better skill would be ‘blocking’. She’s tall and strong enough to handle opposing howitzers from the net.
#2 Piyanut. Key Skill: Receiving. Secondary Skill: Setting. Small as she is, she’s got enough strength and good reflexes to catch those bombs thrown by opposing spikers. Invaluable against teams with heavy attackers. Plus there’s a bonus — with Piyanut on the floor, the Thais got another setter in case the ball gets too far from #3 Pornpun.
SIXTH SPOT. This may come as a surprise but it would be #12 Pimpichaya — instead of either veterans #10 Wilavan or #15 Malika. Yes, both are experienced power spikers (that’s their primary skill) but their game seems to have deteriorated. Wilavan got weaker, yeah, her leaps and spikes; while Malika has become kinda erratic. Lately, her attacks just seem to end up outside the court, or off the mark. Are they just getting older? For power hitters, perhaps.
#12 Pimpichaya is younger, quicker and more athletic than either Wilavan and Malika.. So? She just needs to develop judgment which, in this case, only experience could give.
In the end, the 2-3 loss of Thailand against China in this semifinals was really due to the constant shuffling of players.
As we predicted, Japan’s NEC Red Rockets would win over Ba’yi Shenzhen of China — but at 3-0!? Yeah, tho we favored Japan to win, surprisingly China was just clobbered in the game.
Okay, the scores may be close (25-23, 25-19, 25-21) but NEC was really in control the whole time — save for the 3rd set when China raced to a 7 point lead at the start; but which Japan caught up.
In this title match, Ba’yi Shenzhen was not really able to utilize their height as the Red Rockets just often found the seams to the floor in their attacks. However, while a YouTube commentator said ‘t’is not about power but finding the floor’; we say, this is only true if you have the speed and good floor defense for return plays — like Japan!
Still, in the end, you’d need some sort of ‘power’ or strength to score as well. Can’t be all defense. Otherwise, you only delayed your loss.
And unfortunately, China didn’t have that defense, too. There was just a gaping hole at the back while their spikers — #5 Liu lacks focus and #1 Wang lacks mobility, she is just a bit stiff. Japan, meanwhile had a small but fiery spiker in #15 Yanagita; a sneaky attacker in #6 Oumi; and a stabilizing force in #2 Koga. So, the championship!
BATTLE FOR THIRD
In the earlier match, Bangkok Glass rallied from 2 sets down to beat Altay Oskemen of Kazakhstan, 3-2 and take third place.
During the game, the Thais were kinda like sluggish in the first 2 sets as they fell behind, 0-2 to the Kazakhs. Demoralized in yesterday’s semifinal match? Perhaps. Told ya’, that semifinal against Japan was really the title match of the tournament.
Anyway, the turning point of the game was when #10 Jutarat was replaced with #1 Maliwan as she combined with #5 Pleumjit (who isn’t really a high leaper nor a powerful attacker but is especially good in quick plays) and #16 Frazier to rampage into Third Place.
What’s next? The 2016 Women’s Club World Championships in Manila from October 18 to 23. Must be exciting! Till then!
As expected, Japan against Thailand was a humdinger of a match — at least until Japan forced a 5th set — as the 4 sets took an average of 25 minutes per set to complete. But then from the 5th set onwards, it was all NEC Red Rockets who surprisingly dominated Bangkok Glass, 15-7.
One. Were the Thais just tired of playing volleyball, or were they overconfident? ‘Cause they looked lackadaisical in the final set, and by the time they realized their predicament, t’was just too late.
Two. Did the benching of their import Ashley Frazier prove to be the turning point? Well, we understand if Thailand’s coach wanted more familiarity when he replaced the American. Then again, if there’s one player and only one who should be replaced — we believe it should have been #10 Jutarat.
In this tournament really, Jutarat was Thailand’s weak link — second though was Ashley Frazier. Hey, these two either got their attacks blocked, reception ‘offline’ or served way off! The Thais could have used more of #3 Sutadta and #1 Maliwan instead.
Anyway, as in our previous article on the 2016 AVC, whoever wins this match would most likely go on to win the championship as their expected Finals opponent Ba’yi Shenzhen of China has shown much vulnerability. Yeah, even in their semifinal match against Kazakhstan whom they beat 3-1, it actually took an average of about 26 minutes per set to get things done. See?
And save for the second and third sets when each team took turns in thumping each other — the score was pretty close especially in set number 4 when China finally won, 25-23..
As for the Kazakhs, while they took a set against China; they actually never got one against Japan in their September 5 meeting when the NEC Red Rockets won 3-nil.. 25-16, 25-17, 25-19.
So just imagine the Finals tomorrow (yes, based on their Kazakhstan matches alone, Japan should be favored). It’s basically China’s height against Japan’s speed. While NEC beat Altay’s height, Ba’yi is more skilled. Thus it should be a pretty close match with NEC prevailing if they could show the same focus and intensity as they did against Bangkok Glass when they trailed 1 set to 2 — then showed great defense to win in great fashion!
Do you like volleyball? Well, it may not be as popular as basketball especially in the Philippines but it is certainly gaining ground the world over — including here — as the 2016 Volleyball Asian Women’s Club is currently held at Laguna’s Alonte Sports Arena.
The tournament actually began last September 3 with teams from 12 different countries battling for supremacy. The participating teams may not be their country’s national team as these are just representatives (with just sprinklings of national players so to say) from their commercial leagues but just the same — it’s pretty competitive and fun to watch.
Anyway, the elimination games has just ended and the Quarterfinals is about to begin this Friday, 9 September — with the Finals to be concluded on Sunday, 11 September.
QUARTERFINAL MATCHUP (Friday, 9 September)
JAPAN NEC Red Rockets v TAIWAN T. Grand
THAILAND Bangkok Glass v VIETNAM Lien Viet Post Bank
CHINA Bayi Shenzhen v PHILIPPINES Foton Pilipinas
KAZAKHSTAN Altay Oskemen v IRAN Sarmayeh Bank
While Japan and Thailand could easily beat their opponents — the match between China and the Philippines could be a toss-up. Really. However, Foton needs to play their best volleyball to pull this one through. Yes, China maybe number 1 in the world but the lineup for Bayi Shenzhen is pretty vulnerable with their inconsistency, and that could give the Filipinas a ray of hope.
However, the match to really look forward to would be the potential Semifinal meeting between Japan and Thailand this Saturday, 10 September. This we would say should have been the Finals matchup — since whoever wins between Japan and Thailand would most likely beat China’s inconsistency, unless..
For local fans wishing for players like Alyssa Valdez and Kim Fajardo among others to have played — and citing ‘palakasan’ (favoritism) as the culprit. You ‘may’ have a point because for one, why was Aby Maraño of F2 Logistics allowed to play for Foton anyway? Hmm… Just something we don’t know.
Still, whether it’s F2 Logistics who represented the country or, Foton included Valdez and Fajardo would not really make much difference. The Philippines is still not on that level yet. Yes, this is just something fans should accept — and the volleyball organization to improve on as well. This means not just joining more competitions but enhancing the volleybelles training — strength and speed.
At first, we all thought Spain was the second best team and could challenge Team USA for the men’s basketball gold — well, that was before the 2016 Olympics got started. Yup, and this in spite Marc Gasol not making the team. But then, we also wondered what happened to Serge Ibaka?
Still, this seeding was basically because of Spain’s previous showings — that is being second in the last 2 Olympics and all. Yeah, without anyone really considering their ageing roster..
But now it has shown. More than Jose Calderon not really playing, the team has greatly deteriorated in firepower with Juan Carlos Navarro unable to provide that outside touch and Rudy Fernandez now losing a step or two in his game.
Okay, they still got 3 more games left; but the only team that they’d likely beat in their remaining games is Nigeria. Argentina, Lithuania? That is if those teams get lazy while they get lucky — what with Pau Gasol even missing crucial free throws?!
FRANCE. Uhm, with Tony Parker leading the anchor, seems like the French are in good hands. Problem is — it’s only Parker doing the damage. Boris Diaw can’t just talk about their team ball, it doesn’t show. They got to get Batum, Gelabale and Gobert more involved!
ARGENTINA. Yes, they’ve aged but if they could play controlled ball to save gas for their stars while executing well — and especially if Delfino could get back his shooting touch and Laprovittola is given more offensive plays — then they got a chance!
AUSTRALIA. As it is, the Aussies seem to have the best chance of upsetting the US — but they need more than just the shooting of Patty Mills who most likely would just get bottled up if they can’t execute or move the ball well — they need the toughness of Andrew Bogut and Matt Dellavedova round-the-clock as well as the inside presence of Aaron Baynes.
Lithuania. Their 2 wins were close, so you might as well say they were just lucky. Brazil. Without Splitter and Varejao, they lost big men who could pass well — that should have been a plus in team ball. Serbia and Croatia basically plays the same — though Croatia would be a tougher nut to crack if Saric, Bogdanovic and Mario Hezonja would click.
For any team to win against the US, they got to slow down the game. Move well without the ball. Minimize turnovers and control the boards. Defense? Just make it tough on the shooter and cover the passing lanes especially those lobs or near the basket forays.
Easier said than done? If so then you won’t win. Hey, defense has no day off! And in offense, you’re the one handling the ball — so all you need is a good system to bring home the bacon!
Well, Tim Duncan just retired — and what a way to end his career?! Low-key. Very Duncan-like. And to think that he’s probably the best power forward in NBA history!
Okay, Duncan is already 40 which is why he hung up his jerseys. Yes, even as Manu Ginobili said ‘we all knew it’s coming but still, you can’t help but get moved’. Then again, what is really behind Tim Duncan’s retirement other than age? See, this line of something like “I’m done when it’s not fun anymore” is kinda over-used by almost every player who retires or thinks of retiring; and so, we looked at what ‘could be’ behind such an ‘infamous’ line.
Simple. Not fun means ‘they can no longer do what they were used to doing’. So, understandably, ‘not fun’ is really about one’s pride — especially if you are a known player.
In Tim Duncan’s case, he was just not himself in their recent PlayOff loss to OKC. Ah, don’t count the last game. One good game is not enough to wipe or establish one’s series performance. Tim has been great in his career, no doubt, which is why he is considered as the game’s best PF. But at his age, he forgot that he needs to exert more energy (than he used to) to get the job done. That’s why he wasn’t as effective against the bigs of OKC. He just didn’t push himself.. And he didn’t know it.
Now, whether it’s Duncan or not, if you just do not put much effort especially in an advanced age then he just won’t be as effective. So, this could also be an ‘unconscious fear’ that has crept ‘unknowingly’ to the player — since he’s losing his former strength, speed, vertical leaping ability or athleticism. Seriously. That’s worrisome. That just takes out the fun inside you.
And so, when Kevin Durant announced his intentions to sign with the Golden State Warriors — that just about ‘unconsciously’ made up Tim Duncan’s mind to retire. Because now, it would be harder for the San Antonio Spurs to make the NBA Finals. Yes, even with the signing of Pau Gasol. And that’s not fun. So, better retire than to go through the pain of missing your coveted sixth championship. Again.
Yet for the Spurs fans, if only Green and Mills could be as deadly as they used to be — more so, if Manu Ginobili could be even half the offensive player he used to be; lest, if the Spurs could add one more deadly shooter like a Belinelli or even a Ben Gordon — then they got a chance. And who knows, if Timmy realizes this — he might just unretire and play even one more season.
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