#PBA2016 COMMISH CUP FINALS PREVIEW: LIFELINE OR END OF THE LINE?

Sonny Thoss hopes to help carry the Aces to a Game 6 win over ROS.
(image from the PBA/Inquirer)

The Alaska Aces improbably survived the last two games to stay alive and extend the series. It’s a strange thing for Alaska to do, since they were on the other end of the table in the PHL Cup after winning Games 1-3 vs SMB. Now the Aces have a chance to grab another lifeline and force a Game 7, but can the Rain or Shine Elasto-Painters rediscover their killer instinct and finally reach the end of the line of their championship campaign?

ROS looked indomitable after Game 3, winning quite convincingly and looking supremely dominant. Games 4 & 5, however, pulled the Painters back to earth, further highlighting the grim reality that the Aces themselves knew all along — closing out a championship series is a terribly taxing and difficult task. 


And talking about the Aces, the Alex Compton-coached team, ironically enough, is inching ever so closely to doing to ROS what the Beermen did to them last conference. Their great balance, depth, and team play was in full display here as five players scored in double-figures. Calvin Abueva had another big outing for them, and that’s critical because it sure seems like he has permanently broken out of the slump he had in Games 1 & 2. If the reigning BPC can continue to impose his will, the Aces will be in a great position to win Game 6 and maybe, just maybe, set themselves up for #HimAlaska in Game 7.


1. ROS: BRICK BY BORING BRICK
- Things took a turn for the worse in Game 5 for ROS, the first game where they scored below 99 points in this series. Previously productive players like JR Quiñahan and Jericho Cruz struggled in this game throwing brick after brick, and import Pierre Henderson-Niles had his worst game of the series. This cannot happen again in Game 6, as another loss would give the Aces all the momentum they need to make their own mark in history.

First 4 games: 12.3 3pts per game, 45.4 3pt%
Game 5: 6/30, 20.0%
Lee - 2/8
Chan - 1/4
Quinahan - 1/4
Norwood - 1/3
Ponferada - 1/4
Belga - 0/2


2. ROS: JERICHO GETTING JUNKED
- Jericho Cruz came into this series as Rain or Shine’s best local player, and for the first three games that’s how he played. In Games 4 & 5, however, he struggled big time, and that has really affected the Painters. For them to finish off the Aces, they’ll need Jericho to rediscover his sharpness.

First 3 games: 16.3ppg, 5.0rpg, 2.3apg, 1.7spg, 2.7 triples per game, 57.1 3pt%, 50.0 FG%
Games 4 and 5: 8.5ppg, 0.5rpg, 1.5apg, 1.5spg, 1.0 triple per game, 33.3 3pt%, 31.3 FG%


3. ROS: CAN POSITIVITY TURN INTO VICTORY?
- Coach Yeng Guiao had to rebook a planned flight to London this past Saturday after ROS lost in Game 4. Now that they will be playing a Game 6 on Wednesday, his plans have changed again. Still, coach Yeng remains positive that his team can prevail and bag their first Comm Cup title. Can this positivity trickle down to his wards and enable them to turn it into victory on the court?

“I’m still very positive we will win this championship. I will not dare make any more predictions, except that in the end, we will win this one,” Guiao said following the Painters’ 86-78 loss in Game 5 Sunday night (PBA.Inquirer).

“Ang attitude ko naman rito, you have to claim it at this point. Itong championship na ito, if you do not make that mental resolve, you can easily lose the momentum,” he said. “Sabi ko nga sa mga players, Alaska now has the momentum, but it doesn’t mean they can run over us and totally take over that momentum.” - Yeng Guiao (PBA.Inquirer).



4. ALA: CARRIED BY CALVIN
- Calvin Abueva’s play is a barometer for how the Aces play. If ALA can have Abueva be his usual dominant self — like he was these past 3 games — there is a good chance they may extend this series. On the other end, ROS has to find a way to contain the Beast, lest they turn the momentum permanently over to the Aces.

First 2 games: 11.5ppg, 8.5rpg, 2.0apg, 1.0spg, 36.0 FG%
Last 3 games: 16.0ppg, 10.0rpg, 2.3apg, 1.0spg, 41.9 FG%


5. ALA: VETERANS HEED THE CALL
- It has always been important for the Aces’ veterans to step up, and that’s exactly what they did in Game 5. Oldies but goodies Cyrus Baguio and Dondon Hontiveros contributed heavily for Alaska, and that’s a big reason why they won. If they continue to shoot well and keep ROS’s defense spread, the Painters will have a tough time in Game 6.

Game 5:
Baguio - 11pts, 2rebs, 2asts, 1 triple, 5/8 FGs
Hontiveros - 12pts, 1reb, 1ast, 1stl, 3 triples, 4/7 FGs

First 4 games:
Baguio - 11.3ppg, 3.5rpg, 1.8apg, 1.3spg, 48.6 FG%
Hontiveros - 6.9ppg, 2.0rpg, 1.0apg, 39.1 FG%


6. ALA: AGGRESSION GETS REWARDED
- Alaska’s aggressiveness in attacking the ROS defense got rewarded in Game 5 as they were given 27 free throws, and they made 23 of these. That’s huge, especially since that kind of play also got ROS import Pierre Henderson-Niles in foul trouble. If coach Compton’s wards remain aggressive in attacking the hole and challenging the ROS D, ALA will have strong chance of pushing this to a Game 7.

Game 5 FTs:
ROS - 8/11
ALA - 23/27

Abueva - 6/6 FTs
Dozier - 4/5 FTs
Jazul - 7/8 FTs
Bachero - 4/4 FTs


6. ALA: LOW AND SLOW
- Alaska has been able to put the clamps on ROS's shooters in the last two games, and that's a big reason they were able to win Games 4 & 5. The Aces' defense will have to come to the fore again in Game 6 if they want to force a Game 7, but if the Painters can regain their shooting touch, they will be favored to close this one out.
Games 1-3 (ROS won all three):
ROS: 107.3ppg, 51.3 FG%
ALA: 102.7ppg, 47.9 FG%

Games 4-5 (ALA won both):
ROS: 88.5ppg, 41.8 FG%
ALA: 98.5ppg, 47.1 FG%


8. KEY MATCH-UP: ROB DOZIER X PIERRE HENDERSON-NILES
- Rob Dozier has been a vital cog for ALA. He is one of two guys on that team who have really been doing everything (the other bieng Abueva). Pierre, on the other hand, has been underwhelming for ROS. Henderson-Niles isn’t the typical import who can dominate a game with his scoring, rebounding, and defense. He is more of a role player for ROS, but if the locals fail to have good shooting games again, Henderson-Niles will have to really play beyond himself to give the Painters a lift. Otherwise, we may be bound for a Game 7.

Dozier game 5: 14pts, 8rebs, 1ast, 3stls, 3blks, 5/15 FGs, 2 TOs
Pierre game 5: 6pts, 8rebs, 1blk, 3/9 FGs, 5 TOs

Dozier series: 23.8ppg, 9.6rpg, 2.8apg, 1.0spg, 2.6bpg, 58.2 FG%
Pierre series: 6.8ppg, 10.4rpg, 1.8apg, 1.0spg, 1.2bpg, 48.4 FG%


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