Almost, but not quite.
Coming off a strong showing in the Commissioner’s Cup where they posted an 8-3 record in the eliminations, the Alaska Aces finished with an identical win-loss slate in the final conference of 2018.
The Aces did not even need their twice-to-beat advantage in the Quarterfinals, as they easily dispatched the loaded San Miguel Beermen.
After losing Game One of the semis to the piping-hot Meralco Bolts, Alaska imposed their brand of basketball to win the next three games and punch a ticket to Finals — their first in two years.
The team fought valiantly in the best-of-seven affair, but succumbed to eventual champions Magnolia Hotshots Pambansang Manok in six games.
FOX Sports Philippines crunches the numbers behind the Aces’ runner-up finish.
Although they did not lead the league in terms of statistical averages, Alaska’s versatility allowed them to keep up with elite teams in almost every major category.
The team’s 44 percent success rate from the field was good for third-best in the league (tied with six other teams). The team also fared well from behind the arc, shooting a respectable 31 percent (good for 5th) and made 71 percent of their charity shot attempts (3rd).
The team’s floor generals also did a good job of taking care of the basketball with only 15.27 turnovers per game (4th).
Rebounds, meanwhile, were the team’s trump card, as the Aces feasted in the paint by collecting 49.95 per contest (3rd). They only ranked fifth in offensive rebounds (14.50) but made every one of it count by converting a league-best 17.05 second chance points.
Best Import of the Conference winner Mike Harris led the league in boards per game (21.7), while his playmaker Chris Banchero was the league’s top dime-dropper (8.7).
Mike Harris was certainly the driving force behind the Aces’ resurgence in the Govs’ Cup, and coach Alex Compton would certainly want to employ the well-travelled veteran in future import-laden conferences. The 35-year-old reinforcement normed monstrous numbers of 29.82 points and 21.73 boards in his first PBA assignment and walked away with the much deserved BIC award.
The much improved play of the Aces’ back court of Banchero and Simon Enciso also turned a lot of heads this conference, especially with the departure of former go-to-guy Calvin Abueva at the start of the tournament.
Commissioner’s Cup breakout star Vic Manuel, however, played hurt for majority of the conference and usually came off the bench. His numbers took a major dive, putting up 15.91 markers and just 5.09 rebounds in 25 minutes of action.
With the All-Filipino Cup set to begin in a couple of weeks, Manuel’s health will indeed be of paramount importance for the Aces.
Looking forward, what can we expect from Alaska?
With ‘Father Time’ slowly creeping up on some key guys from the Aces’ roster, a revamp of some sorts might be in order somewhere down the line.
JVee Casio and Sonny Thoss’ minutes were considerably cut down in the Govs’ Cup, which should continue to be the case to hasten the development of their young stars.
The team also plucked former LPU playmaker MJ Ayaay in the first round of the 2018 PBA Draft — another impact player who could crack the Aces’ rotation next year.
With a surplus of youthful but unproven talents at their disposal, Alaska must also make a decision if they should give more consistent minutes to the likes of Carl Bryan Cruz and Davon Potts, or offer them in trade packages in search of more seasoned players.
(Images from PBA)