#PBA2015 PREVIEW: ALASKA ACES vs SAN MIGUEL BEERMEN - HOW THE MIGHTY HAVE FALLEN

The Alaska Aces and San Miguel Beermen played a heckuva Finals series in the previous conference. With so many twists and turns, it was a seven-game series worth remembering. In this conference, however, both teams have struggled mightily, combining for just one win in six games. Indeed, how the mighty have fallen.

The Aces seemed to get things back on-track after escaping the NLEX Road Warriors last week, but they got spanked by the GlobalPort Batang Pier in their last game. With a slew of injuries decimating this squad, can they still make a legitimate run at advancing to the next round, or are they as good as done?

Unlike the Aces, the Beermen cannot really pin their woes on injury. They’ve been pretty much complete in all their three losses this conference. To have played and lost to both expansion teams is a sign of disaster, and they’ll need to muster their championship poise to be able to rally in their next games. 



Here are some things to look at in this game:


1. THE COVINGTON CONUNDRUM
- Alaska import DJ Covington hasn’t really been terrible, but he isn’t exactly top of mind when it comes to the conference’s most awe-inspiring reinforcements. By usual PBA import standards, his numbers are a bit below-par, though he did drop a nice 25-14 double-double in Alaska’s loss to GlobalPort. He’s not the type who can really carry a team on his back, though, so Alaska might need to decide (and soon) what to do with him moving forward. 

Comm. Cup stats: 22.7ppg, 8.7rpg, 1.3apg, 1.3bpg, 51.1 FG%.


2. CEBUANO CATCHES FIRE
- Cebuano Hotshot Dondon Hontiveros hit three treys in Alaska’s last game, which was good because had he misfired on those, the already sizeable 22-point endgame margin would be much more embarrassing. With so many main guys for the Aces in sick bay, the onus will be on this tried and true veteran to spark something in his teammates.

Comm. Cup first two games stats: 2.5ppg, 1/8 3pt shooting, 18.1 FG%
Last game: 11pts, 3/7 3pt shooting, 44.4 FG%


3. WALKING WOUNDED
- As of this writing, four key Aces are in sick bay: JV Casio, Sonny Thoss, Vic Manuel, and Calvin Abueva. Needless to say, all those four guys are indispensable if Alaska wants to make a run at the conference title. It’s still unclear if and when they will return to action, so, in the meantime, the Aces will just have to make do walking wounded.

What ALA is missing (season stats):
Casio stats: 9.1ppg, 3.0rpg, 3.1apg, 31.4 3pt%
Thoss stats: 9.0ppg, 5.4rpg, 1.8apg
Manuel stats: 9.9ppg, 5.9rpg, 1.2apg
Abueva stats: 15.8ppg, 10.9rpg, 2.6apg, 1.1spg


4. WAITING ON ESPINAS
- One guy who has returned from injury is former PCU Dolphin Gabby Espinas. Espinas was solid for Alaska last season, playing as one of the league’s best PFs, but it seems his injury has slowed him down a bit as his numbers have dipped since returning this conference. With so many injuries to the Aces, Espinas must regain his old form for Alaska to have any legitimate chance.

2013-2014 stats: 10.2ppg, 6.7rpg, 1.1apg, 53.8 FG%
2014-2015 stats: 4.0ppg, 2.7rpg, 0.7apg, 40.0 FG%


5. ROBERTS’S SWAN SONG?
- As for SMB, this game may as well be the last for import Ronald Roberts. Roberts hasn’t been a bad import by any standard, but he has been a bad fit for a team that already boasts of the league’s best frontline duo. The addition of Roberts, himself a low post guy like June Mar, hasn’t worked so far, and rumors about either Denzel Bowles or AZ Reid replacing him have resonated of late, so it wouldn’t be a shock if Roberts is shipped out soon. 

Roberts’s stats & rankings:
Scoring: 22.7 per game (4th among all imports)
FG Shooting: 48.2% (5th among all imports)
3pt Shooting: 50.0% (tops among all imports)
Rebounding: 17.7 per game (4th among all imports); he is also tops in offensive rebounding with 8.0 a game
Rim Protection: 3.0 blocks per game (3rd among all imports)
Turnovers: 2.7 a game (middle of the pack among all imports)


6. LUTZ: ALL ABOUT BUCKETS
- One guy who has been a bit of a puzzle for SMB is Chris Lutz. He is scoring really well this conference, but it seems that it has come at the expense of his playmaking. This guy averaged nearly 4 assists per game in the previous conference. That number has gone down significantly in the team’s last three games. When one looks at Lutz’s numbers, it’s pretty clear that, so far, he has been all about the buckets.

Phil Cup stats: 10.8ppg, 3.8apg, 41.6 FG%, 18.9 3pt%
Comm. Cup stats: 12.0ppg, 1.7apg, 52.0 FG%, 33.3 3pt%


7. ARWIND: SIGNS OF LIFE
- It cannot be denied that Arwind Santos has been playing badly so far this conference. He has made just one triple in three games and has missed nearly 75% of his field goal attempts. There were signs of life in SMB’s last game, where the 2014-2015 Phil. Cup Finals MVP dropped 11 points and 9 rebounds, but he’ll need to do more than that if the Beermen want to gain some ground in the Comm. Cup.  

Phil. Cup stats: 16.5ppg, 8.4rpg, 2.0apg, 1.7bpg, 50/141 3pt shooting (35.5%), 44.9 FG%, 36.3mpg
Comm. Cup stats: 10.3ppg, 5.7rpg, 0.3apg, 1.3bpg, 1/20 3pt shooting (5.0%), 25.9 FG%, 29.7mpg


8. FAJARDO REGRESSING?
- Santos’s frontcourt partner, Jun Mar Fajardo, has been faring a little better, but not by much. Like Arwind, June Mar’s production has really taken a hit this conference, and his numbers have actually been on a downward trend in the team’s first three games. It’s almost unthinkable, but the reigning MVP and BPC of the previous conference may actually be regressing on front of our very eyes. 

vs KIA: 18pts, 8rebs, 2blks, 50.0 FG%
vs GIN: 9pts, 13rebs, 4blks, 33.3 FG%
vs BLA: 5pts, 9rebs, 0blks, 22.2 FG%


9. ALEX UNDONE
- When he started this season, Alex Cabagnot was a house on fire, leading the GlobalPort Batang Pier in scoring, assists, and even occasionally being the team’s best rebounder. After his return to the Beermen, it was expected that his numbers would dip, and they did, but, hell, nobody would’ve thought it would be THIS BAD.

Phil. Cup stats: 13.3ppg, 5.3rpg, 4.5apg, 42/117 3pt shooting (35.9%), 39.5 FG%, 31.7mpg
Comm. Cup stats: 5.0ppg, 3.7rpg, 6.0apg, 1/15 3pt shooting (6.7%), 17.2 FG%, 28.0mpg


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