MANILA, Philippines – If there were questions over Alaska’s effort early in the best-of-7 finals series, those are certainly gone now.
Alaska came to play defense in Game 5, and it paid off nicely with a masterful 86-78 victory over Rain or Shine, extending the series to a Game 6.
Head coach Alex Compton lauded his wards for their energy and effort against the Painters, whom he refers to as “the best offensive team in the league.”
“It was another proud game for our guys,” he said after the game. “It makes me really proud of my guys the way they played defense. I wish we had played that way in Games 1 and 2.”
“[Before this game] we talked about [how] that’s what we need to do, we have got to defend. We talked about how they’re gonna come out a lot tougher, they’re gonna pressure us. We’ve got to be strong and make strong plays,” he added.
(HIGHLIGHTS: PBA Commissioner’s Cup Finals Game 5: Alaska vs Rain or Shine)
The Aces took away their foes’ outside shooting and shackled key guys, leaving only Jeff Chan and Paul Lee to figure in double-digit outputs. They ultimately sent the Painters reeling to their lowest output in 4 conferences, according to PBA statistician Fidel Mangonon III.
Alaska, which had a 6-3 edge in blocks, also came out aggressive, going 23-of-27 from the free throw line, while Rain or Shine went just 8-of-11. At the same time they had 5 men in double figures with Calvin Abueva leading the charge.
“Great defensive effort. It’s the first time they didn’t hit like a hundred 3s. I really credit my guys’ effort for really flying around out there.”
In the first 3 games, Alaska allowed Rain or Shine an average of 107.3 points. But the tone changed in Game 4 when Rain or Shine was kept to just under a hundred.
After frustration set in during Game 3, then down 0-3, Compton can now say he’s seeing the Alaska team he knows. (IN VINES: Alaska lives to fight another day after Game 5 win)
“The last two games we kind of looked like a different team than the first 3 games, right? The last two games we’re more the team that I know,” he said.
“It doesn’t mean that Rain or Shine can’t close us out in the 6th or 7th game, they’re a great team. I just want us to play that way. And it makes me proud when we play that way, that’s where our identity is.”
Asked what changed in the past two games, Compton stressed his team simply settled into playing Rain or Shine, and shrugged off habits they formed playing Meralco in a 5-game semis.
“I don’t think we were prepared. We weren’t as sharp as we needed to be. It felt like the Meralco series was so ingrained in us to start that we weren’t rotating the way that we normally rotate,” Compton admitted. “Honest to goodness, we haven’t made adjustments after Game 3. I’m hard-headed. Do it right, that’s our best chance.”
“I think the guys locked it in and made it a commitment to really execute our defensive rotations and game plan,” he added.
Alaska now trails the Painters 3-2 in the 2016 PBA Commissioner’s Cup Finals, with a golden opportunity on Wednesday, May 18, to force a winner-take-all Game 7.
“It’ll be important for us to be consistent with what we do defensively,” said veteran Cyrus Baguio in Filipino. “I could see Rain or Shine is struggling with our defense. I hope next game we’ll maintain that. We’ll take it one game at a time.” – Rappler.com
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