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PBA: Alaska guns for 2-0 lead

JV Casio of Alasaka looks for a teammate to pass the ball after aball recovery against SMB's Aex Cabagnot and Chris Lutz, during BA action at Aranet Coliseum.   Photo by Tony Pionilla

Game Today (Smart Araneta)
7 p.m. – San Miguel Beer vs Alaska

Manila, Philippines – Leo Austria, the San Miguel Beer coach, believes 24 hours is enough time for him to get things right going to Game 2 of the PBA Philippine Cup Finals. Alex Compton, the Alaska Aces mentor, for sure, would like to see him try.

The Beermen face a slew of problems at 7 p.m. when they try to stop the Aces from taking a 2-0 lead in the best-of-7 championship series at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Alaska rallied from a double-digit deficit to take Game 1 in overtime, 88-82, last Wednesday.

Foremost for SMB is finding the solution to Alaska’s pressure defense which was primarily responsible for getting the Aces back into the game after falling behind by 22 points in the second quarter of the opener.

So effective was Alaska’s dragnet that Marcio Lassiter (21 minutes), Alex Cabagnot (27 minutes) and Ronald Tubid (16 minutes) combined for only 10 points all evening, a production fallout SMB never recovered from.

Arwind Santos, the 2013 MVP, had 12 points, but he had 7 turnovers that translated into extra possessions for Alaska.

“Yung tatlo ang missing link sa’min,” said Austria, referring apparently to Santos, Lassiter and Cabagnot.

As huge a concern for the Beermen is how to free 6-foot-10 center June Mar Fajardo from the shackles of the multiple coverage thrown at him, and how to keep him fresh to dominate in the fourth quarter.

A dog-tired Fajardo (47 minutes) missed a free throw that would have restored the lead to SMB with 8.8 seconds left in regulation and under no circumstances should he be asked to go through the same ordeal.

Austria is confident the worst is over for SMB.

“Composure lang naman ang kailangan e,” he said at the post-game interview. “We had a good game plan. But because of Alaska’s defense, we executed badly and we didn’t get the ball to June Mar.”

Though proficient at putting their acts together and coming back from big first half deficits, the Aces are not likely to be as careless as they were in the opening minutes of Game 1 where they missed six of their first eight shots and were limited to 5 points after 12 minutes, a franchise matching low output for a quarter.

“We were as bad as we could be in the first quarter,” said Compton. “But they never gave up and we had contributions all around.”

The riddle of Calvin Abueva, who had 22 points, on 12 of 13 free throws, with 10 rebounds, baffled the Beermen no end in the absence of a livewire on their bench who could match the former San Sebastian Stag’s incendiary spirit.

How SMB intends to prevent Abueva from setting Game 2 aflame anew, along with Jvee Casio and Dondon Hontiveros, who saved their best for overtime four days ago, should determine whether 24 hours is indeed enough to keep the Aces from running away with the series.