Hotshots banking on solid chemistry

After posting a convincing win over NorthPort, there is no doubt that Magnolia is the hottest team in the Commissioner’s Cup of the Philippine Basketball Association right now.

Playmaker Mark Barroca said their newfound prowess and confidence can be attributed to the great chemistry their developed as a team.

Against the Batang Pier, in fact, the Hotshots were rocking and rolling, tallying 32 assists while shooting nearly 50 percent from the field to pull off a convincing 109-91 victory late Sunday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Import Nick Rakocevic led the way with 26 points, 14 rebounds and four assists while Barroca had 13 markers and eight assists to underscore the Hotshots balanced offense that created more scoring opportunities en route to their fifth straight win in the early stretch of the conference.

“Coach Chito (Victolero) told us that everybody can score,” Barroca said.

“We focused more on our shot selection and our assists in the game.”

Barroca said moving the ball around did not only remove the burden off their import, but also gave their role players like Jerrick Ahanmisi, Jio Jalalon and Ian Sangalang to gain confidence offensively.

Ahanmisi, Jalalon and Sangalang scored 10 points apiece while stars like Paul Lee and Calvin Abueva deferred offensively with seven and six points, respectively.

“The score isn’t because of just one person. Our import isn’t a super import so the assists really benefitted everybody,” Barroca said.

Magnolia’s great chemistry will be put to an ultimate test when it battles powerhouse Barangay Ginebra San Miguel on Sunday at the Mall of Asia Arena.

But Barroca said while they are building a winning culture for the playoffs, they don’t have to worry too much about beating the Kings.

“Our goal is the championship,” he said.

“We are building a winning culture here, and what assistant coach Jason Webb said, we have to be consistent regardless if we are up or down in the game.”

“We don’t need to motivate ourselves against Ginebra since we’re already pumped to beat them. We’re going to prepare for them and we’ll leave the tactics to our coaches.”

With Rakocevic at the helm, Magnolia trounced its last two assignments by an average winning margin of 16.0 points for a searing 5-0 start midway through the import-flavored conference.

But while the unbeaten run could be attributed to the Hotshots’ collective effort, an unheralded sparkplug from the bench in Jio Jalalon made it easier for Magnolia as it shored up its bid for a twice-to-beat advantage in the playoffs.

The scrappy guard continued to shine in his role in leading the Hotshots’ shock troopers behind astounding averages of 14.0 points on a 63-percent shooting clip, 7.5 assists, and 3.5 rebounds versus the Road Warriors and the Batang Pier.

The two-time All-Defensive Team member stamped his biggest mark on the defensive end with 5.0 steals in two games to become the Cignal Play-PBA Press Corps Player of the Week for the period Oct. 12-16.

Jalalon beat out Converge gunner Maverick Ahanmisi and Phoenix sniper Tyler Tio for the weekly citation being handed out by the men and women regularly covering the PBA beat.

Against NLEX, the former Arellano U standout unloaded 18 points, five rebounds, eight assists, and six steals in only 26 minutes of play as Magnolia ran away with an easy 111-97 win.

The Cagayan de Oro native would not be denied against the Batang Pier a few days later as he poured in 10 points, two rebounds, seven assists, and four steals including a buzzer-beating triple at the end of the third quarter to give Magnolia a 20-point lead heading home.

On top of those numbers was Jalalon’s key defensive job on counterparts Kevin Alas of NLEX and Robert Bolick of Northport to solidify his stature as one of the best defensive lynchpins in the league today.

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