Head-to-Head Key Match-Up (Espino vs Raymundo)

On: 14 February 2008

It is already expected that the Sta. Lucia Realty - Purefoods title series in the 33rd Season of the PBA Smart Philippine Cup will be a no-quarters-asked, none-given affair, much more torrid than the full best-of-seven semifinals series each team went through.

"We're bracing for a real war," declared Giants coach Ryan Gregorio of the race-to-four series that starts this Friday at the Araneta Coliseum.

"We will never back down," countered Realtors coach Boyet Fernandez, who played with Purefoods under Gregorio in the early 2000s.

While Purefoods is seeking a record-tying fifth All-Filipino title, Sta. Lucia is seeking its first.

In terms of key match-ups, many believe that the 1-2 punch of Purefoods involving James Yap and Kerby Raymundo will give their SLR counterparts a hard time. Both will most probably be facing the Realtors' Nelbert Omolon and team skipper, Dennis Espino, respectively.

Some even hinted that the erstwhile member of Team Plipinas (Raymundo) will have an easier time against the grizzly veteran (Espino) because of his youth and energy. However, these analysts may have overlooked or shall we say decided to ignore the numbers when it comes to the match-up between these two players at the center spot. The oversight may have something to do with how Raymundo performed in the semis and not really on how he did against Espino in their two previous meetings (17 Oct 2007 and 25 Nov 2007), both won by the Giants.

Looking at the numbers from those two meetings showed that Raymundo will have his hands full containing Espino and not the other way around as many would like the sports fans to believe. In fact, Espino outscored and out-performed Raymundo in all facets of those two games except in rebounding.

In their first meeting, both players were clearly still groping for form as they try to adjust with the new rules, but Espino was still able to score 11 points, issue 3 assists on top of 7 rebounds. Raymundo only scored 9 points on a 15.4 percent shooting clip, gave 1 assist the entire ball game and made 6 turnovers. Raymundo, tried to offset his dismal scoring by grabbing 13 rebounds.

The game was a physically charged affair marred by no less than nine technical fouls and the ejection of Peter June Simon and Norman Gonzales on flagrant fouls.

The second meeting between the Realtors and the Giants again pit Espino against Raymundo. This time, Raymundo shot better from the field (30.0 percent), but was again outscored by Espino 16 to 7. Espino was even perfect from the three-point range, sinking 2 shots out of two attempts. As expected, Raymundo grabbed more rebounds 8 to 4. However, it was obvious that Espino had Raymundo's numbers on the defensive end of the floor as he forced him to turn the ball over 4 times.

These numbers will tell us two things : Espino will not have a hard time guarding Raymundo and he can also score big against him. The only question is if they would still be pitted against each other in the Final series, or one Coach will blink and opt for a different match-up.

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