To be completely honest, nothing about the loss surprised me. The script was written even before the game whistle sounded.
The Purefoods Hotshots a proud franchise coming off an embarrassing (by their standards) tourney. The Alaska Aces, despite the 11-day difference between this game and their game 7 loss, were still trying to incorporate a new and rookie import in DJ Covington. Hours before the game, their starting center and defensive anchor Sonny Thoss (foot) was ruled out of the game. Minutes later, Casio (wrist) was also ruled out of the game. Both players are expected to miss around four and two weeks, respectively.
This game was a trap game. Fans were expecting some sort of run from the Aces, apparently the new #NSD kids on the block.
— HumbleBola (@HumbleBola_) February 3, 2015
But it didn’t happen. Whenever you thought Alaska was about to whip off a 10-0 or 8-0 run, Purefoods had an answer.
That last one was not a typo – Marqus Blakely, who coming into the game had hit just 5 of his last 34 attempts from deep in the PBA, made a three. This was clearly not Alaska’s night.
- Purefoods clearly prepared well for Alaska’s full court press. To be completely honest, a full court press isn’t all that hard to break if you know it’s coming. What’s hard is to break it quick enough before the 8-seconds (time allowed to take the ball over the half court line) matter, not so much as a turnover causing tactic but as a time-wasting tactic. When teams play full court, it’s usually to force opponents to burn precious time on the shot clock than forcing an errand pass leading to a turnover (although this is what people think a full court press is). Purefoods, well prepared for the 94×50 defense that Alaska will employ, weren’t bothered at all by it as they were able to break the press easily and start their offensive sets with 18 or 19 ticks on the clock.
- What’s worse — a full-court press is a tiring tactic, and this was evident when you watched Alaska this game. No disrespect to James Yap and Joe Devance, but I saw both of them completely blow by their defenders (Baguio and Manuel, in my memory). There were also a lot of instances where Alaska just didn’t have the energy to jump for rebounds as evidenced by the complete domination on the glass by Purefoods, despite being a historically below-average rebounding team.
- Alex Mallari, so far, has been the other guy in the vaunted 2012 PBA draft that features Fajardo (24.1 career PER), Abueva (19.8), Manuel (17.9), Hodge (17.1), Ramos (14.2), Ellis (12.6) and Tiu (11.8). His career 6.5 PER looks like footnote like Darko Milicic for the 2003 NBA draft (remember that dude?). His first two games have come against Globalport and an injured Alaska team. Is this the conference Alex Mallari claims his stake? or is this because of the PJ Simon injury?
- Covington really looked lost out there. Before the stat-stuffing he did with Alaska being down 20, he was struggling really bad. I’ve never been a panicky person and I try not to let recency bias get to me but Covington has a LOT of work to do to convince everyone he was not a second choice.
I could ramble on about a lot of other small things but in large, this was just a wrong game at the wrong time. Purefoods took the rug out from behind Alaska’s feet. Alaska never got on their feet. Purefoods played the bully in this game. The guy who swept your arms even before you have your balance. The guy who stepped on your chest before you can even clear your head. They were THAT guy.
They totally deserved to win this. Does this mean they’re back? Maybe yes, maybe not. Too early to say. But know that you never doubt Purefoods. Heart of a champion and all that.
Alaska, for their part, HAVE to weather this huge storm brewing. Casio out. Thoss out. An import that’s new and unfamiliar with PBA basketball. The playoff format just changed — only 8 teams get into the playoffs (THANK GOD). That means a third of teams playing won’t get in. Considering Globalport’s slow rise, that means there will probably be one spot left in the “bottom dweller” (and no, Barako’s 2-0 start isn’t …ugh… you get what I’m saying).
Next game will be against the NLEX Road Warriors. Hopefully, they’ll be better rested, Covington more focused and more prepared. Let’s see.