ALASKA is looking to bounce back from a tough loss, but the Aces will have to do so at the expense of a team its coach Luigi Trillo considers as one of the top two in the PBA Philippine Cup.
The Aces battle the rampaging San Mig Coffee Mixers on Saturday as the league holds its third Phoenix road game on Tour of the season-opening tournament in Lapu-Lapu City in Cebu.
Still reeling from a 93-101 setback against Rain or Shine that snapped their five-game winning streak, Trillo's men take on a San Mig team (5-2) that lost twice to Alaska in the offseason – once in a special, four-team tournament also held in Cebu – but whipped the Aces, 103-83, in their first meeting in the eliminations last October 5.
The Alaska mentor admitted they were completely dominated by the Mixers, who are currently on a roll after winning their last three outings, including a 78-68 win recently against Barangay Ginebra.
“To me on paper, San Mig Coffee is one of the top two teams in the league right now. I think San Mig is one of the best teams in terms of wins in the last three conferences,” said Trillo.
The Mixers were easily head and shoulders above the Aces during their first encounter.
San Mig shot an astounding 64.6 percent from the field, while playing tight defense all throughout, limiting Alaska to just 30.7 percent (27-of-88) en route to the ghastly 20-point rout.
“We just need to make sure our defense set the tone early,” added Trillo, who hopes his team won’t repeat the fourth-quarter defensive meltdown they suffered against Rain or Shine.
But like Trillo, San Mig Coffee head coach Tim Cone has been preaching defense to his team since he came on board last season.
Unlike in the past when the Mixers, according to Cone, had been winning much of their games through sheer offensive might, this time the American mentor wants his boys to take pride in becoming a strong defensive team.
“I felt we’ve been trying to win the game with our offense and with our talent. Now, we’re putting more emphasis on defense. That’s what we try to instill in everybody and take pride in being a defensive team first,” said Cone.
This marks the first time the Mixers will have a shot at Alaska’s top rookie Calvin Abueva, who has been sensational during the Aces’ string of victories but was held to seven points and six rebounds in the Aces’ last outing against the Elasto Painters - far from his 15.2-point, 10.5 -rebound average in his first four games with the team.