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Alaska returns to action

Games Today (Smart Araneta Coliseum)
4:15 p.m. – NLEX vs Rain or Shine
7 p.m. – Purefoods vs Alaska

Almost two weeks after a draining, exhausting and losing title series against San Miguel Beer for the Philippine Cup, Alaska begins another drive when it collides with defending champion Purefoods Star today to start its PBA Commissioner’s Cup campaign at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

The Aces hope to be fresh and excited in their 7 p.m. encounter. Clashing in the opening game at 4:15 p.m. are Rain or Shine and North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) with the Painters.

The Aces were just a heartbeat away from clinching the All-Filipino title after leading by as much six points in the fourth quarter but they faded down the stretch.

Still, their overall performance in the series endeared them to many as they rallied from three 20-point plus deficits in winning three of the seven games.

Getting another shot at a title, however, will depend on how import DJ Covington performs in this import-laden conference.

The Hotshots are coming off an impressive 83-70 win over Globalport Batang Pier (83-70) last Friday.

“Purefoods is a great team coming off a conference they will not be satisfied with,” Compton said, referring to Purefoods’ failure to retain the Philippine Cup title after they were eliminated during the quarterfinal round.

“They have the winningest coach in the history of the league with an import who knows their system and players in and out. We will just come out and play hard and hope to give ourselves a chance,” added Compton.

Purefoods will continue to have as reinforcement Marqus Blakely – the import for the Governors’ Cup who has been included to the lineup this conference as the team of Coach Tim Cone wait for the arrival of Daniel Orton.

Aside from Blakely, other players expected to step up for the Hotshots are locals James Yap, Marc Pingris, Mark Barroca, PJ Simon, Joe Devance, Alex Mallari, Justin Melton and Rafi Reavis.

Ran or Shine, on the other hand, will try to rebound from its first game defeat to Talk ’N Text (89-86) last Wednesday despite 30 points and 10 rebounds from Rick Jackson, the team’s 6-foot-9 import.

The Elasto Painters will face a team that has tabbed as import the services of veteran Al Thornton, who played for the Washington Wizards, Los Angeles Clippers and the Golden State Warriors in six NBA seasons.

In its preparation for this conference, NLEX joined an invitational tournament in Dubai, and Coach Boyet Fernandez is confident that the experience they earned will help them in their campaign in the PBA.

“We went to Dubai to train and improve our weaknesses as a team. We learned so many things and we are now in the process of improving ourselves individually and as a team,” said Fernandez.

“We did make the Dubai trip as a chance also for our team to bond together. All in all, it’s a positive trip that will help us improve this second conference,” added the NLEX mentor after the Road Warriors were eliminated in quarterfinals – their first conference in the pro league.