And so Game 1 between the SanMig Coffee Mixers and Alaska Aces is in the history book already. The James Yap-lead team won the first of the Best-of-5 series. As coaches will always say in the interview, “Its just game one. There’s still a lot of games.” That’s true but one thing for sure Alaska wouldn’t want to go 2-0 and hope for the heroic end of the series; at least not against a team who is lead by their former head coach.
As a side story, Tim Cone, Mixers’s current coach, is the long time head coach of Alaska. The transfer happened last season and since then, Alaska never won against Tim Cone. I don’t know if its the old and dusty yet effective playbook of Tim Cone the Aces is using all along that’s causing them hard time winning. One thing’s for sure though, Coach Luigi Trillo, Alaska’s current head coach, is itching already to get that one win.
It is not that Coach Trillo and the gang can’t do the winning thing. Yes, they struggled last season immediately without Cone but the ball turn a whole rotation. During the eliminations, the Aces ended with an 11-3 win-loss card being the number one team in the league. This season, no one really expected that the Aces will be a prominent championship contender having a very versatile and consistent import no one knew in the form of Robert Dozier; Jayvee Casio from the Powerade team (now known as the Globalport Batangpier); the number 2 overall draft pick, Calvin Abueva; and of course the veterans such as Cyrus Baguio, Tony Dela Cruz and Sonny Thoss. The first issue is the gelling of the whole team on court. However, as their record shown, they are very matured athletes who can adjust to one another. Alaska Aces have beaten all the teams in the elminations at least once … except SanMig Coffee Mixers.
So what really should the Aces do? Here’s some of the adjustment I see they should execute against the Mixers for the Game 2 and so forth.
1. Bring Dondon on fire. If Tim Cone has James Yap now, well, Luigi Trillo has Dondon on the counterpart.As was seen on their previous games, the veteran Dondon Hontiveros can really hurt the opposing team BIG TIME just like what he did to the 20+ points leading Rain or Shine in their second game in the elims which they beaten. Although Dondon is one of their trades from Petron, he always shows leadership and so being an example in shooting with calmness. His three pointers must be set up properly in order to get him going. Coach Trillo should also give Dondon around 30 minutes playing time.
2. Just be compose.
Not that the Aces are the least compose team. In fact, they are probably the most compose this conference. But there’s really something on Time Cone’s presence that they seem to rattle. They are not as loose as the fans are use to that even an uncontested layup can be missed. Try to play with their shoulders all set to win, their feet unclogged from the ropes and their minds focusing on the game not on the opponent.
3. Don’t underestimate SanMig’s passing abilities. Tim Cone brought with him the triangle offense in the SanMig which means there will be more passing and the Aces should really really anticipate those. For me, man-to-man defense is of little use and a two-three zone is a better one. Why? Because when SanMig’s triangle don’t work, they will always go to Denzel’s perimeter shooting (SanMig’s import). And that will always be a sure point for the Mixers. So, if they are in a two-three zone, there is a better possibility to jam the passing lanes and force Denzel to take it to his own hands. When that happen, he will only pick two spots: 1.) base line & 2.) 14 foot jumper outside the shaded area. The Aces should then force to double team.
4. Calvin should take all the Booos.
This rookie is specially exceptional in terms of hustle and even clutch points. He has a 3-pointer and a wild layup;although, more than the points he can contribute, the #2 draft pick can be the X-factor if he will be into James Yap’s head. Yes, the Big Game James Yap; not Marc Pingris or PJ Simon but James. Do not let James receive the ball and if he do, slap it right away. Then, when Calvin scores make sure he taunt James. Why so mean to James? I’m not trying to be mean to James but that’s really the way to steep down the chances of the MIxers to win. Sure PJ will step up so will Denzel but having James to trouble on his shooting will be a step forward against Tim Cone. As seen on SanMig vs Meralco’s quarterfinals series, James had a horrible shooting having only 3 points but on the crucial last seconds, Time Cone still chooses him to get the ball and shoot. And so they lose that game.
5. And lastly, gear up, loosen and be ready to win. I am pretty sure that of all the teams, Alaska is one of those who can really bring the A-game. The fans are always on their back no matter what especially the 90’s kids. A little over practicing is also healthy to get the feel of the semis. Alaska has not really been into the semis this past few conferences and some players might not get the proper feel of it. Some might be too excited while others are under the bar. It is very common but can also hurt the team a whole series. Coach Trillo should also take a stolen glance on Tim Cone’s newest playbook. Anticipate Cone’s move. Trillos should also force SanMig’s star players such as Yap, Simon and even Mallari to early foul trouble. We know that can be forced (Jason Castro style).
Disclaimer: All photos credit to the owner.