[nextpage title=”2015 PBA Governors Cup Finals”]
The final stage is set, and there is no other fitting way to end the 2015 PBA season with a battle between the league’s top two squads in the PBA Governors’ Cup.
Just a few months ago, the Alaska Aces and San Miguel Beermen captivated the basketball community with an epic 7-game duel for the Philippine Cup title won by San Miguel in the dying seconds of Game 7. It was in this series where the Beermen finally erased doubt and for the Aces, despite the stinging loss, it was a series which earned them the “comeback kids” or “new NSD team” label.
The second conference was understandably a struggle for both finalists in the grueling nature of the league, but having recovered after, the two squads have been all about winning in the third conference.
The Aces and the Beermen finished 1-2 in the team standings of the PBA Governors’ Cup, doing it in contrasting ways. San Miguel was an offensive juggernaut from the get-go, with the presence of AZ Reid and an abundance of shooters and a big in June Mar Fajardo. San Miguel tops the league in offensive rating with 107.4 points per 100 possessions, and also holds the best net rating at 8.2.
Alaska comes next in net rating at 7.7, but it is the team’s suffocating defense that has propelled them to greater heights. The Aces lead the league in defensive rating, allowing only 96.1 points per 100 possessions. They also lead in turnovers forced at 16.8 per game, and is no. 3 in effective field goal (eFG) percentage allowed (46.7 percent).
Now down to the final… perhaps 7 games (for the fans!), the Aces and Beermen are looking for supremacy. A win by the Beermen shall make them the powerhouse team with the best season, while for the Aces, a win does not only erase the agony of the past but also solidifies Compton’s reputation as one of the best head coaches in the country today.
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Five things to watch out for
1. Three-point shooting
San Miguel is shooting 34.2 percent from three-point land, the third-best in the league. Alaska is not far away at 33.7 percent, but the difference is the amount of threes the Beermen take per game. Thriving with space and a handful of deadly shooters, the Beermen are attempting 27.6 treys per contest compared to only 18.1 for Alaska. They are also making 9.5 threes a game, 3.4 more than the Aces. It is obvious the Beermen will also rely on that three-point shooting in this series, and they have to be super-sharp as Alaska has a ton of pesky perimeter defenders that are quick enough to counter the ball movement.
2. Banchero and the Beast
The two locals Alaska will be needing in this series the most are: Chris Banchero and Calvin Abueva. Banchero, surprisingly, is Alaska’s top-scoring local with 10.1 PPG, and also leads the team in assists with 2.9 APG aside from his 4 RPG. This shows the depth of Compton’s roster and its anyone-can-step-up-big nature. Abueva was playing hurt to start the conference, but remains a beast on the floor with his presence and ability to secure boards at an astounding rate. His rebounding splits are 15.7/28.1/22 (the ideal for a big is 10/20/15), averaging 6.6 RPG in only 16.7 minutes per contest. He will be of big help should the Aces decide to go small ball for certain stretches in the series.
Alex Cabagnot’s shot-making ability will be needed more than ever in this series, especially against the Alaska defense which is hard to break. Cabagnot showed his driving game against Rain or Shine, including the ability to read after high ball screens and it messed the Elasto Painters’ rotation. In the semi-final, he averaged 14 PPG and 9.3 APG, doubling his assists average in the elimination round.
4. The Roman Empire
This time for Rome Dela Rosa to shine on both ends of the floor. The rookie is enjoying major minutes for the Aces this conference, and is impacting the game, whether it is pulling stops or adding to the offense. Dela Rosa attacks the basket relentlessly. More than half of his attempts have come from inside the paint, and he is shooting 70 percent from around the rim, as per HumbleBola.
5. Super Marcio
Marcio Lassiter has a chance to end the conference with a bang. The San Miguel wing man has always been a premier scoring option for the Beermen, and this conference has been splendid for Lassiter. He averaged 20.5 PPG, 4 RPG, and 2.5 APG in the semi-final, connecting at a whopping 65 percent from beyond the arc. He is making 5 triples per contest, almost doubling his 2.6 three-point makes per game in the eliminations. Against Alaska, the Beermen will be needing all the space they can and Lassiter is their best threat from downtown.
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Romeo Travis (24 PPG, 12.9 RPG, 3.6 APG, 1.9 SPG, 1.2 BPG) vs AZ Reid (28.3 PPG, 10.4 RPG, 5.5 APG, 1.2 SPG, 0.4 BPG)
There is a reason why the Aces and Beermen were the top teams in this import-laden conference. They have the best reinforcements. Travis and Reid are the front-runners for the Best Import distinction, and it’s because of how they fit so well in their respective teams’ systems. Travis gives Alaska a do-it-all stretch four with a face-up and back-to-basket game, and the Aces forward is deadly from mid-range. He is versatile enough to play the five too in certain stretches, making Alaska dangerous when they go small. Reid is the perfect complement to a team with June Mar Fajardo underneath. Like Travis, Reid has a post-up game, can create his own shot, and is deadly from three-point area.
Alaska: Sonny Thoss
Thoss will be tasked to defend Fajardo and what’s important for the Aces is the single coverage so the rest can focus on their respective assignments. If Fajardo dominates, he will attract the defense and that will most likely mess up the rotation of the Aces. With the Beermen enjoying space, it will be difficult for the Aces to fight back if they vannot contain Fajardo one on one.
San Miguel: The bench
Alaska is an ultra-deep team that always has fresh legs on the floor. Which such unit, San Miguel should counter with production from its shock-troopers. This series is expected to be a long one, and they cannot afford their starters to wear down.
It’s San Miguel’s series to lose. They had the best winning streak in the elimination, the best import in the past two years, the best local complemented by a solid supporting crew that thrives in Leo Austria’s system. Alaska will definitely fight hard until the very end with an equally competitive cast, but the Beermen has a very slight edge in thr series.
San Miguel in 7.