Alaska’s keys to winning

The 2016 Oppo Commissioner’s Cup is down to its final two teams: Rain or Shine Elasto Painters and Alaska Aces. Both teams were lower seeds during the semifinals but they prevailed over their opponents.

The Alaska Aces last won this conference during 2013 and they would love to win it again after 3 years. The Aces will play in their 3rd straight finals appearance and they’re hoping that the 3rd time will give them another trophy.

So, can the Aces win the Finals? Yes! Here are 4 things that they must consistently do to help them win.

1. Unleash the Beast

Calvin “the Beast” Abueva is a cinch to win his first ever Best Player of the Conference award soon. His current scoring average for the conference is a career-high and it’s amazing that Abueva is scoring more in a conference filled with taller and bigger imports compared to the Philippine Cup. Aside from points, the Beast increased his totals for assists and threes made.

Apart from his statistics, Abueva is widely considered as one of the most energetic and fearless guys in the PBA. Abueva also hustles like there’s no tomorrow and he is a very fiery competitor. Moreover, Abueva takes defense seriously and he has the ability to slow down his defensive matchup by using his quickness and physicality.

Aside from those, Abueva loves playing mind games and he often engages in taunting. If successful, Abueva is able to distract and frustrate his opponent. On the other hand, if unsuccessful, Abueva might get himself a technical foul or ejected.

Just a thought, the Aces should consider calling more plays for Abueva to get him going early instead of waiting for Abueva to get loose balls and offensive rebounds. If Calvin scores early, Rain or Shine might be forced to double team him which gives Alaska more open shots.

2. We Not Me

The Aces are entering the finals with 2 injured key guys: JVee Casio and Vic Manuel. Still, that did not prevent them from reaching the finals. The Aces also took a big risk by going back to Robert Dozier as their import late in the conference. Yet, they kept on winning because of their depth and selfless philosophy. They normally get contributions from a lot of guys and they play as a team.

Well, they are not as deep as Rain or Shine due to their injuries but they can definitely hang with them. Additionally, the Aces have the import advantage because Dozier can do more offensively. Remember, Dozier was a former Best Import awardee. While it has become crystal clear that Calvin Abueva is their best player, others like Chris Banchero, Cyrus Baguio, RJ Jazul and Sonny Thoss have raised their games during this conference. Even the older veterans like Eric Menk, Dondon Hontiveros and Tony dela Cruz have given their team everything.

Now, if the Aces remain competitive while Vic Manuel is still out, then the Aces have a chance to win the finals when Manuel is ready to play.

3. Defense

During the eliminations and the playoffs, the Aces were just a so-so team offensively. On the other side of the floor, their defense was way better. Their offense sputtered a little bit due to injuries and the late import replacement surely affected their team chemistry.

As for their defense, Coach Alex instilled a tough mindset that puts a lot of effort towards their defensive pressure and schemes. It also helps that their best player, Abueva, displays maximum effort on the defensive end. So everyone needs to follow the example of their superstar because if they don’t follow his lead, then things might get ugly in the dugout.

Moreover, Alaska needs to force a lot of turnovers because they rely on a bunch of points coming from turnovers. The Aces are #1 in steals which leads to transition baskets.

Thus, the Aces are tops in points off turnovers and also tops in fast break points for the whole conference. They have multiple guys who thrive in transition and when the opportunity to run is there, the Aces definitely know what to do.

4. Point Guard Duties

The injury to Casio has given opportunities to others like Banchero and Jazul to play more often. So far, both players have stepped up to the task.

In the playoffs, when Banchero scored at least 10 points, the Aces were 3-1. As for Jazul, when he scored at least 9 points, the Aces were also 3-1.

Needless to say, it is very important for both point guards to play well and be involved in Alaska’s offense most especially because Banchero and Jazul are the #3 and #4 top scorers of the team after Dozier and Abueva.

Their aggressiveness will also put more pressure against the backcourt players of Rain or Shine. – By Rolly Mendoza

Follow this writer on Twitter: @rollzter