What happened to Manila Chooks TM at the 3x3 Doha Masters?
DOHA (Qatar) – Eighteen months ago, Doha was turned into downtown Manila after spectacular performances by the Filipino teams to kick-start the FIBA 3x3 World Tour 2019.
Underdogs Pasig Chooks stole the show on Day 1 of last year's Doha Masters with a stunning upset over powerhouse Liman (SRB), while compatriots Balanga Chooks stunned eventual champion Riga (LAT) before knocking over Moscow Inanomo (RUS) after Alvin Pasaol drained a memorable Tissot Buzzer Beater in OT.
After those heroics, there was much excitement over Manila Chooks TM heading into this season's Doha edition with the Filipino team headlined by Pasaol and superstar Joshua Munzon - arguably the two best 3x3 players in the Philippines.
Unfortunately, Manila Chooks TM failed to live up to the hype in a winless campaign where they lost to world No.1 Liman 22-15 and failed to qualify to the knockout stage after a disappointing 19-14 defeat to No.12 seed Lusail (QAT).
The Filipinos were hoping to at least make the semis in a bid to qualify for next month's World Tour Final in Jeddah but fell well short.
After some time to digest their performance, here's the good and bad from Manila Chooks TM's only appearance at this year's World Tour.
Munzon is the real deal
The 25-year-old can hold his head high. He only played two games but was one of the standout players in Doha. Munzon came to Qatar in-form having dominated the Filipino 3x3 League capped off by an epic game winner in the 'Million Peso Game'.
The competition was much higher in Doha and Munzon proved he could mix it with the best after a dazzling display where he became a firm crowd favorite. The 6 ft 4 (1.93m) sensation scored 17 points in 2 games and knocked down 7 two-pointers - a remarkable feat considering defenses purposefully schemed to stop him.
When the smooth-mover wasn't swishing, he was dishing - none more so than a nasty dime against Lusail which of course just had to feature prominently in our top 5 plays.
Joshua Munzon is legit.
Pasaol's poor shooting
For Manila Chooks TM to make some noise in Qatar, sharpshooter Pasaol had to share the burden with Munzon. But the 25-year-old flamed out in Doha's heat - scoring just 6 points in 2 games and shooting a woeful 1 of 12 from the two-point arc.
Pasaol also struggled handling the ball against swarming defenses and committed 5 turnovers in Doha. He did suffer a shin injury in the second game against Lusail but still, Pasaol went from hero to villain in Doha.
Lack of size
The Filipino team were outmuscled by their opponents in Doha. They are a team built on skill and the magnetic talents of the silky Munzon. But Manila Chooks TM could not handle the strength of Liman's enforcer Mihailo Vasic, who scored 7 points on 6 of 7 shooting. To be fair, few defenders can stop the Serb big man when he's cooking inside.
But they were also powerless to limit Lusail's 6ft 10 (2.08m) giant Souley Ndour, who dominated inside with 10 points (2 dunks), 7 rebounds and 2 blocks. 6ft 7 (2m) Troy Rike, Manila Chooks TM's tallest player, tried hard but could not match the big boys and lacked physical support.
Manila Chooks TM were -9 on rebounds across the 2 games.
Slow starts and poor finishes
Manila Chooks TM clearly have talent but they need to be switched on for the whole game. Slow starts and poor finishes cost them dearly in both games. Against Liman, they fell behind 9-2 - including coughing up 6 straight points - and not even a hot patch mid-game from Munzon could help them recover.
Riga's heroics aside, it's almost impossible to reel in a big deficit against the world's best.
To their credit - mostly thanks to Munzon being in the zone - the Filipinos clawed back and then led 14-13 before Liman scored 8 of the next 10 points to run away with the game.
In a must-win clash against Lusail, Manila Chooks TM once again came out cold. They quickly trailed 5-1 before again turning it around to take a 7-6 lead. But following the same horror script, they fell away badly to be outscored 13-7 for the remainder.
With a long off-season to contemplate, Manila Chooks TM need to be far more consistent to become a force on the tough World Tour.