One interesting storyline prior to the start of the PBA Philippine Cup finals series is the coaching duel between Alex Compton of the Alaska Aces and Leo Austria of the San Miguel Beermen.
It’s a classic matchup pitting teacher versus student as Compton used to serve as Austria’s assistant coach with the Welcoat Dragons during the 2006-07 PBA season.
They went their separate ways since then but, as fate would have it, find themselves matched up against each other in the ongoing Philippine Cup finals series.
But with the current 2-1 series deficit San Miguel Beer is facing, it seems that the student is getting the better end of their first three encounters.
Yes, the teacher developed good game plans prior to the start of each game, but it was Compton who adjusted well during the game itself.
Three games into the series, the Beermen looked dominant by gaining a huge lead during the first three quarters of each game. Winning a game, however, is a different animal. It is not about building big leads, it’s about how you protect the lead and not lose the game. For two games, Compton and his team were able to do a great job in pulling off inspiring come-from-behind victories to take a 2-1 series lead.
Alaska thrives with its energy as its foundation. It has been a living proof to its success. There’s no quit in this team. You build a big lead and the Aces will keep coming back at you. Even when facing a huge deficit, they will grind you out possession by possession. That mentality has enabled them to win in the end.
Coach Austria’s game plan, on the other hand, is to put his marquee player in his sweet spot – June Mar Fajardo working at the low block – and have four of its shooters outside looking for a possible kick out.
But when the Aces came up with the defensive adjustment of clogging the passing lanes to distort the Beermen’s offense, the offense crumbled for San Miguel Beer almost immediately.
So where does the problem lie?
The Beermen could not get the ball to Fajardo down low. They used this bread-and-butter play the entire conference. They didn’t try to adjust with plays like a double post offense where the other frontline player would screen for Fajardo to allow the 6-foot-10 slotman to get the ball. Spacing would be sacrificed, but at least, the Beermen would be able to get the ball to the reigning MVP close to the basket.
The Beermen should also maximize their line up more.
They, arguably, have the best wing players in the league today in Marcio Lassiter and Chris Lutz. Both of them are capable of shooting lights out or penetrating to the basket.
They also have two talented point guards in their rotation that could give them a different look – Chris Ross and Alex Cabagnot.
If it’s tough to break Alaska’s press, maybe the Beermen could use both of them together at the same time, a lineup change that the team has yet to implement, to ensure the team will be able to cross the ball trouble-free for a press break.
Halfway through the series, Compton appears to have Austria’s number, but anything can still happen. Coach Austria certainly has a trick up his sleeve to get the loaded Beermen squad going.
Unless, of course, the players won’t respond to the challenge.