MANILA, Philippines – What do you do when what you have for a semifinals foe is a well-oiled championship team flanked by veteran big game players and backed by a long-time import with little to no chemistry issues?
You grind them down to exhaustion.
“I think we need to make it an absolute defensive, wearing, exhausting, physical, tiring series,” Alaska Aces head coach Alex Compton described what his team aims to accomplish in their best-of-5 semifinals duel against the peaking defending champions Star Hotshots.
“I hope that when the series is over – whether it’s 3, 4 or 5 games – when we’re done, they’re exhausted, because they just played Alaska.”
The Aces are a notorious defensive team that can dictate the pace of a game at will, according to what’s working for them, whether it’s fast or slow or both.
In the 2015 PBA Governors’ Cup, the top-seeded Alaska allowed its opponents 92.5 points per game through the entire eliminations including their quarterfinal match-up against Barangay Ginebra.
The real difference is in their wins and losses as Alaska allowed an average of just 86.2 points in all 9 of their wins so far. And when they lost thrice in the eliminations, they gave up 111.3 points, meaning Alaska always has a best chance of winning when its defense is like clockwork.
“They are playing real high-level basketball, real high-level defense,” Star head coach Tim Cone admitted. “We’re gonna have to be our best defensively to compete with them.”
Compton’s Aces will face the Hotshots which averaged 100.4 points a game in their 8 wins.
Alaska won their elimination round meeting against the Star, 92-86, over a month ago. Interestingly, the Hotshots scored just 86.6 points in their 5 losses, not far from the points the Aces allowed when they won.
“I think we need to make it an absolute defensive, wearing, exhausting, physical, tiring series.” – Alaska coach Alex Compton
“They are a formidable team. They look like a complete team, in and out – import, guards, big men, Calvin Abueva,” said Cone, who will face his former team once more on his path to a 19th PBA championship.
Cone last faced Alaska in a playoff series during the quarterfinals of the previous Commissioner’s Cup, where Cone emerged victorious.
Ultimately, Compton believes the keys to winning this series will constantly change every game.
“The richness of coach Tim’s experience, he’ll make adjustments,” he explained. “It makes me glad that I have a bunch of assistant coaches that also have rich experiences.”
Alaska will also be dealing with a team high on momentum with a 5-game winning streak after struggling for the better part of the eliminations.
It’s been an all too familiar story for the Star since their Grand Slam season last year, when they repeatedly struggled early in conferences then made massive playoff runs all the way to the titles. Compton realizes that brand of experience will be tough to contend with.
“The entire country is aware that they’re not out of it when they start slow,” he said, adding that import Marqus Blakely in his 4th tour of duty with the team makes the Hotshots even more dangerous. “They are a great playoff team. They have the experience together.”
Compton, whose sole playoff motivation will be to win his first PBA title after a bridesmaid finish in this season’s Philippine Cup, expects nothing more than an all-out effort from his team.
“Hopefully Alaska’s advancing. But even if they (Star) advance, I hope that [they will get tired] as well. That we put our hearts on the floor and that required every once of them to stay in the series.”
Game 1 of this semifinal match-up is on Wednesday, July 1 at 7 pm. – Rappler.com
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