COLUMN: Nenad has pushed all the right buttons so far in PBA Finals

COLUMN: Nenad has pushed all the right buttons so far in PBA Finals

CHICAGO - It's a long way to go, but two games isn't that far, either.

Nenad Vucinic is on the threshold of becoming the first-ever active consultant to win a PBAtitle and the thought of it must terrify those who are reticent to the idea of having foreign coaches pitch their tent in the Philippines.

It shouldn't.

Just like Tab Baldwin before him, Vucinic is a gift that needs to be cherished, not rejected.

READ PBA to fine Nenad for confronting refs at end of Game 2

Vucinicis not just coaching in the ongoing PBA Philippine Cup Finals. He is conducting a clinic, leading a less-talented Meralco to a 2-1 series lead while bullying an All-Star-laden San Miguel squad to come to its knees.

Vucinic's best magic trick so far is making the 6-foot-10, 268-pound June Mar Fajardo vanish in crucial stretches and making the seven-time MVP fade late.

The all-Filipino tourney is traditionally Fajardo's playground and with a total of 52 points and 38 rebounds through three games he is still highly productive.

BUT NOT DOMINANT. NOT EVEN CLOSE.

Held to just five field goal attempts in Game 3, Fajardo's impact has been dulled by the Bolts' defensive schemes of throwing different bodies and coverages at him.

Clearly, the Cebuano big has been worn down by the constant physical pressure from Meralco that his usually reliable free-throw shooting has suffered, 22 of 34 this far.

On the offensive end, the Bolts are beautiful to watch with the ball moving and bodies cutting.

PHOTO: Jerome Ascano

Under Vucinic, Raymond Almazan and Cliff Hodge have become scoring threats. Hodge had 25 in Game 2 while Almazan leaked for 17 in Game 3.

Having the bigs do more than just defend and rebound has infused a lot of firepower on a Bolts quintet that had drawn mostly from the scoring well of Chris Newsome, Chris Banchero, Bong Quinto and Allein Maliksi.

While Meralco's attack has grown more creative and dynamic as the series progressed, San Miguel's offense has stagnated, relying heavily on CJ Perez's dribble penetration and Marcio Lassiter's 3-point shooting.

THE EXPENDABLES.

But the greatest joy, to me, is seeing Vucinic pluck forgotten names and turning them into a basketball iteration of "The Expendables."

Realizing that he needs every living, breathing asset to beat a formidable foe, Vucinic has identified specific roles and made contributors, no matter how modest, out of Diego Dario, Norbert Torres, Kyle Pascual, Alvin Pasaol, Anthony Caram and Raymar Jose.

Vic Manuel, meanwhile, is calcifying on an SMB bench that is terribly missing the services of Terrence Romeo, a two-way guard who could have hounded Banchero and disrupt Meralco's flow.

I've said before that San Miguel's Jorge Gallent is a very good coach. I'm not taking that back.

I'm just saying, Nenad has proven to be much better in this championship series.

  • https://www.msn.com/en-ph/sports/basketball/column-nenad-has-pushed-all-the-right-buttons-so-far-in-pba-finals/ar-BB1nXJ48?ocid=00000000

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