A look at the 7-game series that brought Ginebra back to the Finals with a little help from a fine commissioner…
After ending an 8-year title drought in last season’s Governors’ Cup, the Barangay Ginebra San Miguel will look to end a 10-year Philippine Cup skid as they face the San Miguel Beermen in a quasi-Finals rematch…. and the bragging rights of being called the best local alcoholic drink in the market: gin or beer? (The PG version of “choco na gatas or gatas na choco” debate)
Now, let’s be honest — no one really cared about the Talk N Text and San Miguel series.
If TNT won, PBA fans will all be like “ah okay.” And now that SMB won and headed to another Finals appearance with a loaded roster, it still received the same “ah okay” reaction. For comparison’s sake, Leila De Lima and Antonio Trillanes get the same reaction in their weekly “Duterte is a billionaire psychotic murderer” press conferences.
So don’t feel bad, TNT and SMB!
But when you utter the following words:
“Never Say Die,”
“Caguioa — Jayjay,”
“Alfrancis Chua — Abby Poblador scandal,”
You get the people talking. That’s the beauty of having Ginebra and Purefoods Star Hotshots in the semi-finals, the same matchup that has been the PBA’s answer to the Lakers-Celtics, the DLSU-ADMU, and Erich Gonzales-Daniel Matsunaga rivalries!
And with a strong possibility of a 7–game series on the horizon, one can only imagine Commissioner Chito Narvasa going gaga over the money that PBA could make from their advertisements and gate attendance just before the semi-finals started.
(Remember, this is the same commissioner that will fine you for just about anything )
The narrative of the “SemiClasico” looked good on paper — Barangay Ginebra, with all odds against them, always had their “Never Say Die” attitude that won them games. All out with all heart as they face their archrival, Purefoods Star Hotshots.
But the actual story is the polar opposite.
Ginebra found themselves down 0–2 and 2–3 in the series and yet everytime they win, fans say it’s all scripted (again, same reactions during De Lima and Trillanes’ press conferences); everytime they lose, fans will say that Ginebra is back in their “kangkungan.” It’s tough to be Ginebra fan these days.
But it doesn’t take a die-hard PBA fan to know this — Ginebra in the PBA Finals will make more sense, due to their immense following, than Purefoods.
Just look at the attendance count during the last 2 Semiclasico games:
Game 6 at Araneta Center:
Game 7 at MOA Arena on a Tuesday night (that is neither a holiday nor payday):
Which is why I can’t help but imagine that the PBA did have something up in their sleeves to try and favor Barangay Ginebra, not only for the sake of everyone who has bled Ginebra since the days of Jawo (both Robert and Dudot) but also, for the PBA’s own benefit and having enough publicity for the Philippine Cup Finals.
First, let’s look at it from a betting aspect:
Below are the moneyline (betting on which team to win the game) prices for each team per game from OddsPortal.
(The prices are the multiplier. If you bet Php 100 on Ginebra to win Game 4, which is priced at 1.61, then you’ll get Php 161 in return)
GIN win % — Ginebra Win probabilty; PSH win% — Purefoods Win probability
Despite the absence of Greg Slaughter and a less than 100% Joe Devance, bookies were already preparing for the Ginebra bets, thereby cutting their prices short and making them big favorites in 5 of the 7 games. By Game 3, Purefoods were already up 2–0 in the series with all players healthy and yet Ginebra has a 62% chance of making it 2–1 than the Hotshots making it 3–0. Game 5 basically was a toss-up game, considering that the series became a best-of-3 at that point, which explains why both had 50% of winning. Once again, Hotshots were leading the series 3–2 but were still the underdog to win games 6 and the eventual do-or-die game 7.
Another thing that has always been questioned during game-fixing allegations are fouls called on the team and free throws attempted. Stats were from the boxscores made available by the PBA:
The number of fouls called on Purefoods were almost twice as much as what the refs called on Ginebra during Game 4 and the Hotshots leading 2–1 in the series. And discrepancy on the number of free throws attempted by Ginebra versus Purefoods in the same game is also disturbing.
23 free throws! That’s huge considering that the biggest discrepancy prior to that was 10, during Game 3 and Ginebra needing a win to make this a series. No wonder Marc Pingris and Allein Maliksi were planning to start a cooking show together right after losing Game 4! And I never even noticed how it was also lopsided in last night’s Game 7. 17 free throws on a do-or-a-die game? Come on Narvasa, the PBA didn’t have to be that obvious.
I asked a good friend of mine who basically lives and breathes Barangay Ginebra (no joke, he’s naming his first son Sparky Caguioa) and he justifies the difference by saying that the Hotshots were not aggressive attacking the paint and were settling for the outside shot. So I went a little further to check the scoring distribution of both teams per game and see if Sparky’s dad had a point
(Spoiler alert: he didn’t)
The Hotshots’ 3-point distribution were nothing out of the ordinary. It was only in Game 1 did the Star gambled on the perimeter but adjusted their plan in the following games when they realize that Ginebra didn’t have Greg Slaughter defending the paint!
Purefoods’ play inside the arc was also very much balanced throughout the series but check out the numbers for Games 4 and 7. Ginebra and Star Hotshots were pretty much equal on their 2pt attempts, but somehow Ginebra is shooting 23 more free throws than them? In Game 7, the Hotshots attacked the paint more (7 more attempts, 6 more converted) but were down 10 in the free throws?
There are limitations to the stats above when we consider that a mid-range, lay-up, dunk, and floaters are just some of the things counted as 2PTS, but in theory – if Ginebra and Purefoods are nearly identical in number of shots, then their FT difference shouldn’t be that huge in my opinion.
Let me say this, what Barangay Ginebra has accomplished in back to back conferences is nothing short of amazing. After all, two of their important big men (Slaughter and Devance) are battling through injuries while the rest of their players are stepping up big time.
I just don’t want to see teams getting punished for not having the following that Ginebra has to solve the PBA’s attendance issues and be used to sell the Finals.
Sure, these are just stats and numbers that don’t show the grit and grind that players from both teams displayed in a 7-game series, but this is also the reason why fans continue to question Ginebra when they win or lose during the Philippine Cup conference.
It’s time to change the script, Direk Narvasa. Try to do something to entice the crowd to support the league more instead of relying on Ginebra to bring the fans every game.
Let’s not wait for the PBA to turn into an “ah okay” league.
– David Gamboa