TWO of the PBA’s top defensive teams square off on one side of the Governors’ Cup semifinals starting Wednesday at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
Alaska, which has carved an identity for its suffocating full-court brand of defense that marked its elimination-round dominance, and Star, which has regained the defensive form that made it a two-time defending champion, begin what promises to be a grueling best-of-five series at 7 p.m.
“We need to make it an absolute defensive, wearing, exhausting, physical, and tiring series,” said Aces coach Alex Compton.
They Said It!
“Alex Compton is like the 2nd coming of Tim Cone for Alaska... interesting match up of minds.” Facebook reader Mark Cuello Cantona
Hotshots coach Tim Cone expects nothing less from the Aces.
“They are playing real high-level basketball, real high-level defense, and we’re going to have to be at our best defensively to compete with them,” said Cone, who will face his former team for the fifth time in the playoffs.
So something has got to give.
The Hotshots have their offense they can turn to, having above 100 points in their two quarterfinal wins that wiped out fourth seed GlobalPort's twice-to-beat advantage, including a 126-point explosion in the first game.
Offensive production is likewise not a problem for the top-seeded Aces, who eliminated the Gin Kings with a 114-108 decision in the playoffs’ first round.
Still, it was a defensive battle in their elimination-round meeting where the Aces nipped the Hotshots, 92-86, last May 27 behind a stingy effort that forced their victims to commit 21 errors that led to 27 turnover points.
Alaska import Romeo Travis registered 27 points, 14 boards, seven assists, five steals, and one block, while Star counterpart Marqus Blakely had 22 points, 12 boards, two assists, and one block against four turnovers in that encounter.
The loss was the last of a four-game skid that marked the Hotshots’ rough start to the conference.
“They handled us very easily the first time around, but I thought we’re a different team back then,” said Cone, whose team has won its last five games. “I think we’re a more confident team now.”
The coaching battle is also expected to be a factor as Cone, a two-time grand slam champion coach, faces a rising tactician in Compton, who has yet to win a title.
“The richness of coach Tim’s experience, he makes adjustment,” said Compton, who has a capable team of deputies in Louie Alas and Topex Robinson. “But it really makes me glad that I have a bunch of assistant coaches who also have richness of experience.”