JOE Devance believes Purefoods has regained the championship swagger which helped the franchise win its first-ever Grand Slam title in the PBA last season.
With four straight wins to end the elimination round behind comebacking import Denzel Bowles, the third-seeded Hotshots enter their best-of-three quarterfinal series against the Alaska Aces as the hands-down favorites.
“We all know how good this (Alaska) team is. How hard they (Aces) play and how much hustle and heart they have. But we’re ready to match that,” Devance told Spin.ph before the Hotshots’ practice on Thursday.
“We have a whole new excitement for the game and for this conference. We’re good to go.”
Bowles, a strong candidate for Best Import, showed he’s a lot better than he was when he played for the team during the 2012 and 2013 seasons. “Monster” Bowles is averaging league career-high numbers of 33.4 points, 15.2 rebounds, 3.8 assists, and 2.8 blocks this conference.
But even if Bowles appears unstoppable in Purefoods’ last four games, Devance explained everything begins on the team’s commitment to play defense.
“Their (Aces) pressure defense is the key. That’s what they live on, (playing) defense. But we live on our defense, too. We live on getting stops, run the triangle, play as a team, and that’s what we’re focused on,” added the 32-year-old Fil-Am, whose team finished the eliminations with an 8-3 record.
Purefoods energetic forward Marc Pingris said his main concern in the race-to-two-wins series is how to contain Alaska’s athletic import Damion James.
“Yung import nila (Aces) and pino-problema ko,” said Pingris in a brief reply, before resuming his pre-practice workout.
The 6-foot-7 James is averaging 28.2 points, 15.2 rebounds, 2.1 assists, and 2.1 steals for the Aces since replacing DJ Covington halfway through the eliminations.