IT’S going to be a Tuesday grudge match as Alaska battles San Mig Coffee in the latest chapter in the two team’s budding rivalry in the PBA.
As if the coaching clash between veteran Tim Cone and former protégé Luigi Trillo is not enough, an intriguing storyline has been thrown into the 7:30 p.m. encounter as big man Joe Devance is set to return for the Mixers following a one-game suspension.
Devance, who instigated the brawl that marred the San Mig-Globaport match last week, was involved in an altercation with super rookie Calvin Abueva during a tune-up match between the Aces and Mixers in the pre-season.
The bench-clearing incident led to Trillo and Cone exchanging heated words on the court. (For full story, see Trillo hits out at Cone, says former mentor's 'power-tripping, lack of respect' triggered spat)
Apparently, that hasn’t been loss in Trillo’s memory.
“The last time we met in our pre-conference match, we were beaten by like 25 points,” said the young Alaska mentor.
“And that was before Allein Maliksi came to the team,” he added, referring to the talented sophomore's move from Barako Bull to San Mig.
Trillo added, “I know our hands will be full against them because they kicked our ass the last time.”
Alaska (3-2) is gunning for its fourth win in six outings as it eyes a share of second spot currently occupied by Meralco and Barako Bull. The team is coming off a hard-earned 112-104 win over Talk `N Text.
The Aces try to follow that up with another win against San Mig (3-3) in the hope of cementing their bid for one of the top four spots in the standings.
But Trillo said he’s pretty sure the Mixers will have an extra motivation to try and beat the Aces in the two teams’ first meeting this conference following Alaska’s victory over San Mig during the Commissioner’s Cup semifinals.
The Aces had gone 0-9 against the Mixers in the post-Cone era, before stringing up three straight victories in their Final Four duel to dethrone San Mig Coffee.
Alaska took the series, 3-1, to advance to the Finals where the Aces eventually swept Barangay Ginebra, 3-0, for the franchise’s first title without Cone at the helm.
“There’s a lot of gana for them to play us especially with what we did against them last conference in the playoffs,” Trillo noted.
Although San Mig won’t still have veteran forward Marc Pingris around as he serves the second of his two-game suspension, Trillo remains firm that San Mig is a solid team due to its veteran core of James Yap, PJ Simon, DeVance, and import Marqus Blakely.
But Cone tries to downplay whatever edge his team has, saying the Mixers only had a day to prepare its game plan against Alaska following their 89-86 win over Barangay Ginebra on Sunday night.
“We’ve got to turn around real quick as we go against Alaska,” said Cone.
“We’ll still miss Ping, who's our energizer. He brings a lot of energy in an important part of the game like his rebounding and defense,” he added.