MANILA, Philippines – Even in import-laden conferences, Beau Belga very rarely finds himself at a size disadvantage. Even if he gives up a few inches in height to other team's reinforcements, he makes up for it with his considerable heft.
That was not the case on Sunday, when Rain or Shine faced off in a crucial game against TNT KaTropa. There, Belga found himself dwarfed by TNT's new import, Joshua Smith, who was playing in only his second game for the KaTropa.
Listed at 6-foot-10 and 290 pounds, Smith had a considerable height and weight advantage over the 6-foot-5 Belga, while also proving quite mobile for a man his size.
"Nagulat din ako sa kanya," Belga said after the game. "Ganoon siya kabigat, plus alam niya kung paano gamitin ang katawan niya. Wala naman kaming dapat i-complain – kailangan namin siyang laruin eh."
[I was surprised. He's heavy, but he knows how to use his weight. We can't complain, because we have to play against him.]
While he is usually able to guard imports one-on-one and use his size to push them out of the block, Belga found himself needing to ask for help when matched up against Smith.
"Sobrang bigat," he admitted. "Akala ko noong una, typical big man na mala June Mar (Fajardo), mabigat. Pero noong binangga ko, sabi ko, 'Grabe 'yung bigat.' Noong una, sabi ko baka sakali na kaya ko pa."
"Eh noong natapat, sabi ko, 'di kaya. Kailangan ng katulong," he added.
[He is very heavy. I thought he would be like June Mar Fajardo, but I was surprised with his weight. I thought I could defend him one-on-one, but I realized that I needed help.]
Even when double-teamed, however, Smith was able to score on Rain or Shine as he used his footwork and soft touch to convert inside points. The former Georgetown center wound up with 23 points and 12 boards in TNT's 105-102 victory.
Belga was no slouch, as he finished with 13 points and seven boards. But defending Smith took its toll. Rain or Shine's big men – Belga, Raymond Almazan, and Jewel Ponferada – were called for a combined 15 fouls in the game, several of which came as they tried to push Smith out of the paint. Their own import, Duke Crews, was ejected in the third period after a technical foul.
Smith was mostly unable to make Rain or Shine pay as he connected on only five of his 11 free throws. Moreover, Belga noted that they can take him out of the game if they play at a faster pace. Given TNT's depth, however, the KaTropa can still compete at a high level even with their import on the bench.
"Ang kaibihan lang, pag sinub siya, ang locals ng TNT, ganoon pa rin," Belga pointed out. "Para ka rin may import kay (Mo) Tautuaa at Kelly (Williams). 'Yun ang kailangan naming harapin, sakaling makaharap namin sila."
[When you sub him out, the TNT locals are still there. Tautuaa and Kelly Williams play almost like imports for them. That's what we need to prepare for should we play them again.]
The loss to TNT dropped Rain or Shine to 5-6 at the end of the elimination round, putting them in danger of playing a twice-to-beat team in the quarterfinals.
"Bawi na lang [We just need to bounce back]," said Belga. "We're still in (the playoffs)… We just need to prepare for our next problem."
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