ALASKA’S last two games have exposed the Aces are vulnerable on defense, but coach Alex Compton is confident they can address the issue once they return to action against NLEX on Friday in the curtain raiser of the PBA Philippine Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Aces saw their six-game winning streak come to an end when they bowed to the Barako Bull Energy, 85-78 last week and barely got by GlobalPort Batang Pier, 87-84, over the weekend in Cagayan de Oro City.
At 7-1, the Aces are on track in their bid to clinch one of two automatic berths in the semifinals.
The Ace will shoot for their eighth win against the Road Warriors (3-5) in their 4:15 p.m. encounter.
“I was happy that we were able to win the game (against GlobalPort) at the end by getting a stop,” said Compton, who is only in his second conference as Alaska head coach.
The American coach said to sustain the gains, the Aces will have to maintain their defensive intensity for 48 minutes, especially since they’ll be up against a dangerous NLEX side that relies on Asi Taulava inside and a slew of gunners like Nino Canaleta, Aldrech Ramos, and Mark Borboran from the outside.
Meantime, NLEX coach Boyet Fernandez admitted winning the team’s last three games is a tall order for the Road Warriors in their bid to reach the playoffs.
The Road Warriors are also coming off a 93-95 setback to Rain or Shine, a game that saw them blow a six-point lead inside the final three minutes after Elasto Painters star Paul Lee’s endgame scoring blitz.
“We really want to win three straight, but again, we have to learn to finish strong in the endgame,” Fernandez said.
The comebacking PBA coach said the team’s roller-coaster performance in the franchise’s maiden league appearance has a lot to do with the major adjustment players are undergoing with his system.
“Kailangan mag-buy-in kasi ang mga players sa system. But we also have to understand that some of my players came from different coaches and different systems,” he said.
“But again, nobody expected us to be in this kind of a performance. Hopefully, we can win against a tough Alaska team and win our last two games also.”