MANILA, Philippines – Coming off a title victory in the 2018 PBA Governors' Cup, the Magnolia Hotshots failed to open their campaign in the 2019 All-Filipino Cup on a similarly high note.
The Hotshots fell prey to TNT in a defensive grind, with the KaTropa hacking out an 80-75 win in overtime.
Asked if the Hotshots were still nursing a "title hangover," head coach Chito Victolero said his team entered the game with the right mindset.
"Natural lang naman 'yan but maganda naman 'yung mindset nila ngayon e," he said. "Breaks of the game lang talaga."
Victolero said his team still has yet to recover its rhythm after taking a break following last year's campaign, and an ill-timed injury to Paul Lee did not help. The veteran guard – the Best Player of the Conference in the 2018 Governors' Cup – jammed his right thumb in practice and further aggravated the injury during the first half of Sunday's game.
"Okay naman, maganda, hindi ko nga in-expect na ganoon 'yung lalaruin namin because of 'yung timing talaga, sobrang hirap," said the coach.
"Maganda 'yung nilaro namin defensively, but 'yung offense, makikita mo naman na wala pa kami sa timing," he added. "Sumalo lang sa amin 'yung depensa."
The Hotshots are also far from peak condition, Victolero admitted.
"Makikita mo naman talaga mabilis mapagod eh. Halos mga 3 minutes, 4 minutes lang, mabilis ako magpalit ng tao. Talagang wala pa," he said.
Despite all these, they nearly won the game in regulation. The Hotshots had a 72-70 lead in the final 10 seconds, after a split at the line by Jiovani Jalalon. Unfortunately, they miscalculated in the final possession, leaving Troy Rosario open for the game-tying bucket after double-teaming Jayson Castro.
The Hotshots' offense completely fell apart in overtime, where they managed just one field goal.
"'Yung depensa talaga ang bumuhay sa amin. Pero offensively, makikita mo talaga wala sa timing. 'Yung halos lahat ng execution namin, medyo nagmamadali eh," Victolero said.
The good news for Magnolia is that it is just one game, and their coach is optimistic that they can regain their rhythm as the conference progresses.
"Habang tumatagal 'yung laro, makukuha namin 'yung timing namin offensively," Victolero predicted.
The Hotshots play again on Sunday against San Miguel Beer.
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