Alaska eliminated the Ginebra Gin Kings in a semi-convincing manner with a 92-81 victory two days ago. They did it just as I thought they would: they shot the three ball well (made 9 of their 23 attempts), they set the tone early (well, not in the early part of the first) and they brought the defense (allowing Ginebra to score just 91.2 points per 100). It was a job well done despite an awful performance from Henry Walker (61.4 points produced per 100, 19.7 percent TS) and of course without Zac Mason for Ginebra.

With that win, Alaska moves on to the semis where they face off against their Freddy Krueger. Yes, Freddy Krueger as in the star of the hit horror film, the Nightmare on Elm Street.

This season (Philippine, Commissioner’s and Governor’s), in three games against Rain or Shine, Alaska has lost by … 27.7 points per 100. H*&^ ^%$#!!!!

W-L Margin (Points per 100)

vs A21

2-1 5.0

vs BAR

3-1 4.4

vs GIN

2-1 5.9

vs GBP

1-3 -0.3

vs MER

1-3 -3.0

vs ROS

0-3 -27.7

vs SMC

4-0 +13.0


2-1 +6.2

vs TNT

1-3 -2.1

This is to say to Alaska, Rain or Shine is the worst matchup they could have. Rain or Shine HAS Alaska’s number, and they know it. They’ll enter this game with a lot of confidence while Alaska will (despite what they say) be very wary of this matchup. Over a five game series, Rain or Shine can absolutely demolish them much in the same way that the San Antonio Spurs defeated a dispirited Miami Heat team. For Alaska to have ANY chance at winning, they’ll have to bring not just their A-game. But their A+++ game both on offense and defense. What do I mean?  Let’s look at the Keys to the Game.

Defend the 3-point shooting

Rain or Shine relies on a sort of pace-and-space attack that tries to involve as much ball screens as possible. Their bigs (Reid, Almazan, Belga, Cruz, etc…) have a reputation of hitting shots from midrange/3-point land. It’s one of the best features of this team. Adding those shooting bigs to a couple more deadly shooters (Chan, Lee) and a lot of slipping and popping on screens, bends most ball screen defenses in the league. For Alaska’s trapping scheme, it’ll be death.

I personally think Alaska should dial down its hard hedges/trap. Make a change and go for the conservative defense for now. Can they afford to make this change? Maybe. Will they have a better chance at winning if they go to a wholly untested (and poorly practiced) style as compared to their preferred way? Absolutely.

Rain or Shine already knows how to bend Alaska’s trapping scheme to get shooters look. This season, against the rest of the league, Rain or Shine shoots 31.1 percent from deep on 26.1 attempts (29 games). Against Alaska, Rain or Shine shoots 37 percent on 30.7 attempts (3 games). That’s about a 9 point swing every game against Alaska. Alaska has to go to a conservative approach on their ball screens (Rain or Shine’s primary mode of attack) if they want to have a chance.


Beau gonna Beau (Photo Credit: Paolo Papa, Sports 5)

Change their passing options

This means Alaska must revamp (a bit) their offensive options.

None of those dangerous cross-court passes to an open Jvee Casio in the corner. Better to just kick it out to the guy on the top of the key, who will then swing it to the guy on the wing who swings it (finally) to Jvee (or whoever that player is) in the corner. It may take more passes and this may allow Rain or Shine’s defense to rotate systematically but at least it doesn’t create live turnovers that Rain or Shine feasts on against Alaska.

None of those difficult pinch post passes in traffic. Those passes are free meals for the active hands of Rain or Shine’s players.

No pocket passes or jump passes or baseline passes. Play the safer (but harder) passes. Rain or Shine gets about 16 fastbreak points per game against Alaska – highest in the league, second only to when they play the San Miguel franchise (15.7). That’s only on 8.7 attempts (!!!) which means Rain or Shine finishes all of their fastbreak opportunities against Alaska. This is because most of these opportunities come when Alaska’s offense is whirling and Rain or Shine gets a deflection and a 2-on-1, 3-on-2 advantage happens.

With this, they can hit two birds with one stone — they can lessen their turnovers (which are possessions effectively ending with no points) and lessen Rain or Shine’s easy baskets. If say Alaska gets the number of turnovers down from 22 (their norm against Rain or Shine this season. I know right, WTH?!) to say, 15 (their norm over this season), that’s 7 more possessions that Alaska could have scored, which if you consider that they score about 0.985 points per possession this season, means about a 6 point swing on their end an additional 4~6 point swing against Rain or Shine (since they won’t get to score easy baskets). That’s about a 10+ point swing!


All of this considered, Alaska has to not get into an early hole against Rain or Shine. Alaska’s learned how to close out opponents this conference. Rain or Shine has been doing it, this season.


Leading After 1st


Leading After 2nd


Leading After 3rd


Leading After 4th


In their last game, Rain or Shine dug Alaska into an early 17-point hole… and then promptly dug them into the massive hole that was the Red Wedding.

If they do Keys 1 and Keys 2, then they might do Key 3 too! If they don’t, this is going to be a massacre game, much like the massacre of the past ALA vs ROS game.

I’m not confident in this series. I’m really not. I’d like to say Alaska has a chance and I’ve seen evidence of the coaching staff dialing down on their hard traps, but Rain or Shine has Alaska’s number. It’ll take a massive effort from Alaska (and a lot of #PUSO) to get a W, much less this series.