AS if its current woes is not enough, Barangay Ginebra have no less than the best team in the PBA Philippine Cup eliminations for its next opponent come Tuesday the Mall of Asia Arena.
The Kings battle league leader Alaska Aces in the main game at 7 p.m., almost 48 hours after suffering a disappointing 98-77 blowout at the hands of Globalport.
The loss to the Batang Pier was the third straight for the league’s most popular ballclub after opening the season with a near perfect 5-1 (win-loss) slate.
But despite the skid that left his team out of contention for one of two outright berths in the semis, coach Jeff Cariaso feels the Kings (5-4) can handle the pressure when they face off with the Aces.
The rookie coach spent more than an hour inside the viewing room on Monday along with his coaching staff before doing a walk-through of the team’s plays during practice at the CCF gym in Libis, Pasig City.
“We had actually a full week of practice so we try to cover things on what we’ll be using (against Alaska) and make sure we focus on the week because we knew we have back-to-back,” Cariaso told Spin.ph after the practice.
Cariaso feels the Kings need to be mentally prepared while coming out with a collective effort on the defensive end to beat a confident Aces side.
“That (mental factor that has caused the three-game losing slide) and our defense, (because) we’re not doing the little things we’re doing when we were 5-1,” the 42-year-old mentor said.
“Sometimes, it’s a miscommunication, sometimes it’s the lack of effort. So again, we’ll be challenged by a very confident Alaska team, but I think we’ll be better playing defensively tomorrow (Tuesday),” he added.
Ginebra’s last two games in the elims is actually not going to be a walk-in-the-park.
After the Aces, the Kings need to hurdle the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters on Sunday to at least assure themselves of a twice-to-beat incentive in the playoffs.
On the other hand, Alaska coach Alex Compton said beating Ginebra is a must for the Aces to inch closer to their target of clinching one of the two semifinal seats.
“We are not assured of a semis spot so we are just focusing on getting better every day,” said Compton.
“Ginebra has many players that cause us a lot of concern. Greg (Slaughter) and Japeth (Aguilar) are the biggest frontline combination in the league and they are excellent players. Mark Caguioa and Joseph Yeo are two of the best guards in the league, and LA Tenorio is a national team point guard for a reason, he is exceptional,” he added.
Given the Kings’ solid roster that also includes Mac Baracael, Chris Ellis, veteran guard Jayjay Helterbrand, Billy Mamaril and hardworking rookie Rodney Brondial, Compton said there’s no room to slack down for Alaska.
“They have veteran leaders who know how to win and they are a scary team for anyone. They are an excellent defending and rebounding team so we will have our hands full,” he said.