From Games 1-4, the Alaska Aces had no June Mar Fajardo to worry about, but they fell 3 minutes short of sweeping and dethroning San Miguel Beermen in the ongoing PBA Philippine Cup Finals.
Three games later and the championship hanging in the balance, the Aces are now bracing for the worst as they try to solve the Kraken-sized problem posed by San Miguel coach Leo Austria.
Undeniably, Fajardo has changed the complexion of the series as his presence in the last couple of games took away whatever advantage Alaska had in the first 3 games.
“Any PBA team who will face June Mar will have a tough time defending him. But just like what coach Alex (Compton) said, even if how good June Mar is, he’s still human. It’s hard to stop him but we can contain him,” Alaska assistant coach Louie Alas told FOX Sports in Filipino.
While Fajardo’s numbers — 14.5 points and 5.5 rebounds — in the Finals is just a fraction of his conference averages of 24.8 points and 13.8 rebounds, his mere presence on the floor alone has given his teammates open looks and confidence to hit their shots.
Alas, the designated defensive coach of the Aces, is hoping to find a solution to that 6-foot-10 problem.
“It’s good that we have time to regroup and hopefully, we can prepare a way to stop him,” Alas said.
As the momentum tilted to the Beermen’s favor, the Aces are looking to go out there in Game 7 with a nothing-to-lose attitude.
“The pressure is now on them because everyone now is thinking we’re going to lose,” he explained.
History beckons for San Miguel on Wednesday night as they try to complete the “Beeracle” comeback from 0-3 series deficit, which no other team in the league and even in the NBA has accomplished in the past.
From being the heavy favorite to win the title 3 games ago, the Aces are now a loss away from being relegated to just a footnote of a historic comeback.
Can they find a way to escape from the clutch of defeat and ignominy of the greatest collapse in the history of basketball?
The Aces won’t find the answer in any of Compton and Alas’ playbook.
“Style, system, adjustments are going to be critical but what’s the most important is… heart,” Alas said.