PUREFOODS Star showed no mercy from the get-go, pounding a listless and undermanned Alaska side, 108-88, to grab a share of the lead in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup on Tuesday night at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
James Yap and Alex Mallari set the tone for the team’s overwhelming victory over the Aces, combining for 20 points in the first half alone to give the Hotshots a 57-35 halftime lead that only got bigger in the second half.
The Hotshots never wavered from there to book their second straight win in the midseason, import-laden conference to catch Talk ‘N Text, Meralco and Barako Bull at the top of the leaderboard.
“For the first time since a long time, we seem to be ready for the conference,” said Purefoods Star coach Tim Cone. “This is a huge hurdle for us to get out 2-0, to see if we can create some momentum this conference.”
The victory could also be a fitting farewell for import Marqus Blakely in the conference as he’s set to give way to Daniel Orton, who arrived late Tuesday afternoon from China.
But while Orton watched from behind the Purefoods bench, Cone said Blakely might still have a chance to play on Friday if the 6-foot-9 Orton fails to adjust immediately to the team's system.
Orton is set to join the team’s practice on Wednesday as they prepare for a game against Blackwater, reinforced by Gilas Pilipinas naturalized big man Marcus Douthit, on Friday.
Mallari, Yap and Blakely all scored 17 points for the Hotshots, who are off to a fast start for a change after a lackluster jump off the gates led to a letdown in the last Philippine Cup.
The Aces, who are coming off a gruelling seven-game Finals series against eventual Philippine Cup champion San Miguel Beer, played without injured starters Sonny Thoss (foot) and JV Casio (wrist).
Import DJ Covington struggled in his PBA debut, finishing with 19 points, most of which came in the second half when the Hotshots were already in complete control.
Alaska rookie guard Chris Banchero came off the bench to score 16 points in Casio's absence.
Purefoods 108 - Mallari 17, Blakely 17, Yap 17, Pingris 12, Maliksi 11, Melton 9, Reavis 8, Barroca 7, Devance 4, Alvarez 3, Pennisi 3, Simon 0, Gaco 0, Allado 0.
Alaska 88 - Covington 19, Banchero 16, Abueva 12, Manuel 8, Baguio 7, Menk 7, Jazul 5, Espinas 4, Vanlandingham 3, Hontiveros 3, Dela Rosa 2, Dela Cruz 2, Eman 0, Exciminiano 0.
Quarterscores: 27-14, 57-35, 86-63, 108-88