The law of averages seemed to have went off for Purefoods on Friday night as they torched the hoops en route to a 120-86 destruction of the Alaska Aces to take a 1-0 lead in their best-of-three quarterfinal battle in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup.
The Star Hotshots could do no wrong, as they started the game on a 14-1 tear. With shot after shot falling, the reigning conference champions wound up shooting a white-hot 61 percent overall from the field. The annihilation was so bad that Aces head coach, Alex Compton, did not even bother to have a lengthy post-game conversation with his wards.
“I don’t think 45 minutes of berating guys at this point will be helpful for Sunday’s game,” Compton said. “When a group of human beings start making their shots, the basket gets bigger. They just shot the lights out. It was a poor game plan from me to start, and it just led to their confidence.”
The Aces exited the arena a few minutes ahead of the Star Hotshots as if they were the winning team. Compton spared the squad from a tongue-lashing as a 34-point blow-out was just too much for him to utter much words. Purefoods simply had it in the bag and took the wind out of the Aces.
What Tim Cone’s troops did impressively in Game 1 is they showed the importance of having (and sticking to) a championship-tested system. In the triangle, it is important to move the ball well, and move well without it. The Star Hotshots did both, and it resulted into a record-setting night.
Execution was spot-on. In one play, Denzel Bowles located James Yap for an excellent feed as the latter made a backdoor cut and finished with the reverse layup. In another, Bowles drove from the left baseline, dished out a pass to Joe Devance, who was on the right corner, and Devance immediately moved the ball to PJ Simon, on the left wing, to drill a three. Bowles’ initial penetration forced the Aces to collapse, and they were never able to recover defensively.
It was the theme of the entire night as Purefoods drained bucket after bucket to leave Alaska devastated.
“We were moving the ball extremely well and it was just one of those games where they made the tough shots, made great passes, and we were getting some steals. It’s just one of those nights. We’re not that good, they’re not that bad,” Cone said.
The Star Hotshots made 61 percent of their field goals, including 62 percent from three-point land (13-for-21). Of the 46 field goals made, 34 were assisted. Purefoods finished with a whopping offensive rating of 136 (the Golden State Warriors lead the NBA in offensive rating with an average of 109.6).
Bowles had 20 points, eight rebounds, and five assists to lead Purefoods. Five others finished in double-digits. Devance, who plays the “point” during Cone’s huge starting unit, had 10 points, eight rebounds, and seven assists.
“I’m just trying to get my teammates better. (Moving well) is what we’ve been doing,” Devance shared. “I’m the facilitator of the group. I just want to give them good shots.”
They had to keep pushing, wary of Alaska’s ability to get back using its against-all-odds comeback. With everyone shooting well, Compton had a difficult puzzle to solve.
“Maybe the next game we put eight guys on the floor. I don’t know. We can’t give that many easy shots. I didn’t feel that we made it hard for them at any point of the game, and some are really basic stuff,” Compton added.
The Aces were not particularly bad as they made 38 percent of their three-point attempts. However, they missed easy shots early in the match and fell to a 7-31 deficit. From there they tried to match Purefoods fire for fire but the defending champions were just too strong.
The Bolts had 17 of its 36 field goals assisted, with six players also finishing in double-digits. They wouldn’t force the issue and instead look for the best shot possible.
Mike Cortez only had 10 points and four assists but left an imprint with his leadership. The Bolts outscored the NLEX Road Warriors by 32 points when he is on the floor.
“It is a much better effort from us as far as teamwork is concerned,” Bolts head coach Norman Black told media. “We’ve not been playing well as a team offensively but tonight we did a good job of sharing the ball and that was the difference.”
Both Meralco and Purefoods were both able to orchestrate with impressive ball movement and it led to taking the series opener.
If they are to advance to the next round, it is mainly due to sticking to their well-oiled systems.
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