ALASKA shoots for a two-game series lead when the Aces clash anew with the Rain or Shine Elasto-Painters in an explosive Christmas Day offering in the PBA Philippine Cup semifinals at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
The Aces played their best game of the series so far on Monday, holding the Painters to just 27 first half points on the way to a 94-78 victory and a 2-1 series lead.
Alaska looks to follow that up with another win and closer to a return trip to the Finals.
Game time is at 4:15 p.m.
Coach Alex Compton said since the start of training camp several months ago, he has never stopped emphasizing on the importance of playing defense collectively.
So far, the Aces have done that consistently, holding their opponents to just under 78 points per contest in the season-opening conference.
And though the series has been a physical battle, owing to the rugged plays of Rain or Shine, Compton remains unperturbed, choosing instead to focus on the things the Aces can control during the game.
“Our emphasis has always been the next play or the next possession. We’re not a powerful enough team or deep enough team to be able to focus on anything else than our jobs. So I’m not worried about that,” Compton said, who has taken Alaska to its second straight semifinal appearance since replacing Luigi Trillo early in last season’s Governors Cup.
“I’m more worried about ‘are we rotating right?’ or ‘why is Paul Lee open?’ ‘Why is our transition defense bad?’ or ‘what are we doing well?’ That’s what I’m thinking. I’m not thinking of anything else.”
On the other hand, Rain or Shine coach Yeng Guiao is trying to keep alive the Painters’ bid for a third straight Philippine Cup Finals appearance.
Guiao said they can’t afford to get pushed to a 1-3 deficit, a hole which only a few teams have overcome in the pro league’s 40-year history.
Talk ’N Text was the last PBA team to bounce back successfully from a 1-3 deficit, beating Petron (now San Miguel) in seven games during the 2012 Philippine Cup.
“The two-day break was enough for us to break down the game and find out our mistakes,” Guiao said, confident that the Elasto Painters are strong enough mentally to bounce back with a win.
Rebounding remains a big concern for the Elasto Painters, who have yet to win that department in the series.
Alaska averaged 56 rebounds during the first three games in the series compared to Rain or Shine’s 43.6.
“We could have had the chance (to win Game Three) pero ganun talaga. Na-overtake kami ng situation with the offensive rebounding of the other side,” lamented Guiao.
“We’ve been struggling with our rebounding all conference long. Hindi lang ngayon, something that’s a big concern and something we have to fix.”