TWO perennial bridesmaids seek to finally get over the hump as the PBA Commissioner’s Cup Finals get going on Friday night at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
Alaska and Rain or Shine have been the models of consistency, being fixtures in the playoffs at this time of the season, with the Aces in their third straight finals appearance - and fourth in the last five conferences - and the Elasto Painters in their fifth over the last 11 tournaments.
But both squads have always fallen short in their previous trips to the championship round.
Now, one side is destined to put an end to its heartbreaks.
The Aces and E-Painters aim to take the first step in Game One of the best-of-seven series that tips off at 7 p.m.
The Aces are victims of the most recent heartbreak, having suffered the greatest collapse in league history after squandering a three-game lead over San Miguel Beer in the Philippine Cup Finals.
But Aces coach Alex Compton refused to use the monumental setback – and the rest of their heartbreaks – as motivation.
“We try to step into each challenge as a new challenge and embrace it,” Compton said in the pre-finals press con on Thursday at PBA Café. “We don’t really try to live in the past – we try to learn from it. I think we try to take the lessons out of each loss and win and keep going forward.”
The Aces have proven they have moved on from that debacle after outlasting Meralco in a five-game semifinal series that went to the limit to return to familiar territory.
“It’s hard to dwell too much on the past,” Compton continued. “We got (plenty) of things to worry about on their side. We try to foster a competitive environment where we just value competition.”
“So I don’t know if I’ll spend a lot of time talking about the last few finals before this one,” he added. “I got to worry about Rain or Shine. That’s enough to worry about than what happened a year ago.”
The E-Painters, on the other hand, want to remember the pain, most recently their title series against Talk ‘N Text in the last midseason tournament where they were just one converted possession away in the second overtime from capturing their second crown.
“Knowing coach Yeng, he always reminds players about the past because he doesn’t want them to repeat (the mistakes),” said top deputy Caloy Garcia, who spoke in lieu of Yeng Guiao.
“Sometimes, you can’t use it as motivation because others haven’t been there at the time, but just a reminder to the players who lost there before,” he added.
ROS star Paul Lee still remembers their loss to the Texters in the last Commissioner’s Cup, but is dead focused on the task at hand.
“Naka-frame pa sa utak ko yun, pero medyo naka-move on na rin naman ako,” he said. “Mahirap din yung marami kang iniisip. Ito, another chance so kailangang paghandaan.”
“Same thing din sa Alaska alam natin gusto nila manalo ng championship,” he added. “Pagtrabahuan lang namin.”
Both squads figure in what’s expected to be an up-tempo, physical battle with the Aces turning first to their usual defensive calling card to generate their transition offense.
According to statistics thru last Monday, the Aces lead the tournament in steals (8.9) turnovers forced (19.4), second in blocks (4.6), and are third in points allowed (91.8).
The run-and-gun E-Painters, for their part, are second-best in offense with 101.1 points per game, but it seems the Aces are better as they are tops in fast-break points (13.9) and points off turnover (20.9).
But these numbers hardly matter in the endgame where intangibles make the most difference.
Find out which team shows them starting in the series opener.