LUIGI Trillo said Alaska is keen to prove that its first-round win over Rain or Shine was no fluke when the two teams clash again on Friday night as the jockeying for the top spot in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup continues at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Aces though will most likely miss top local center Sonny Thoss for the second straight time as his bad back has acted up again, forcing him to skip the team’s practice for the past two days.
“Sonny hasn’t practiced with us for the past few days because his back didn’t feel well again. But if we really need him, like in an emergency case, we’ll try to pull him in. But definitely, he won’t start,” Trillo said as the Aces and the Elasto Painters collide in the all-important game at 7:30 p.m.
The good news though is Alaska’s top playmaker JV Casio will be reactivated against Rain or Shine after missing the past four games due to a knee injury. The former Smart Gilas mainstay though will come off the bench for the time being with either RJ Jazul or rookie Raphael Reyes manning the starting point guard spot.
The 37-year-old Trillo said ever since Alaska pulled off a pulsating 83-81 victory over Rain or Shine on February 9 behind Cyrus Baguio’s buzzer-beating bank shot, there had been a lot of talks that the Aces simply won because of “bad endgame officiating."
“I felt there’s a lot being said that our win happened simply by accident. But if you look at the stats, we had more rebounds, more assists, less turnovers and more blocks,” noted Trillo.
“There’s gonna be a lot vengeance in this game but we want to prove that we won it (the first meeting).”
With Thoss not around, Trillo expects import Robert Dozier to play extended minutes on the floor, though he could expect help from local big men like Nic Belasco, Samigue Eman and Gabby Espinas, who will all try to body up on 7-3 Rain or Shine import Bruno Sundov on defense.
Sundov’s play has actually shifted the last four games after averaging two triples during Rain or Shine’s 3-1 stretch. He’s also averaging a more efficient 24.3 points and 13 rebounds in just 32 minutes the last four matches.
Rain or Shine coach Yeng Guiao said they are determined to get back at Alaska.
“We will use that game as an added motivation, siyempre, natalo kami dun dahil na rin sa bad officiating that resulted in the suspension of a referee. I also feel we have advantage with the depth of our bench kasi mas gumaganda na ang jelling ng locals with our import,” said Guiao.
The winner moves up to 9-3 and will have the inside track on a top two spot, which offers a twice-to-beat incentive in the playoffs.