MANILA, Philippines -- Michael Qualls struggled to live up to expectations in his first game for Rain or Shine in the 2022-23 PBA Governors' Cup.
Much was expected from the American import after he torched the Meralco Bolts for 53 points in a tune-up game ahead of the season-ending conference.
But he was kept in check by the Bolts on Sunday night at the PhilSports Arena, as Qualls was limited to 14 points on a 3-of-22 shooting clip. He also had 15 rebounds and five assists as the Elasto Painters lost, 105-87.
Qualls' explosive performance against them in a tune-up game "might have been a blessing in disguise," said Meralco coach Norman Black.
"We had a chance to watch him and scout him, and come up with the defense to go up against him. It worked pretty well tonight," he added.
For Rain or Shine coach Yeng Guiao, there was no doubt that his import got frustrated through the course of the game. The Bolts had pulled away in the third quarter after a deadlocked first half, and Qualls was never able to get his rhythm.
"I felt we had good momentum going for us at halftime. Yung nangyari, I guess, at some point, our import got frustrated," said Guiao. "You can tell from his body language that he lost his energy, eh energy guy itong si Michael Qualls eh."
"Ang from that point, I thought, oh, we have a problem here, dahil this is not his real character. Even in practice, I haven't seen him with energy that low kaya I was surprised because that is not his usual demeanor. I see him everyday in practice and he is high energy," he added.
It's a problem that Rain or Shine will have to address, said Guiao, who noted that Qualls likely got frustrated because of the officiating.
At several points in the second half, the import attacked the Meralco defense in hopes of drawing a foul. Qualls did take 13 free throws, making nine of them, but many of his forays to the hoop were not rewarded.
"He wanted some calls that were not called," said Guiao. "That also got to him, aside from the fact that he was really shooting badly."
"And again, that is not the way he shoots. So just a bad night for him, and the problem is he took the team down with his bad night," the coach added. "That sometimes happens because the players know what he can do in practice, and if they over-rely on an import, even psychologically, pati yung game mo maaapektuhan."
Though they lost badly, Guiao said it's too early in their campaign to ring any alarms. Moreover, there were still positive takeaways for the Elasto Painters, including the fine play of James Yap and Rey Nambatac's effort in the second half.
"It's very early in the conference, I think this is something we can fix. Yes, it's a loss, but I still feel we can make a good comeback," Guiao assured.
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