Three games into the 2015 PBA Philippine Cup Finals, the Alaska Aces have taken a 2-1 lead over the favored San Miguel Beermen. In a way it is a big surprise as San Miguel led by MVP Junemar Fajardo and former MVP Arwind Santos have took double digit leads in all 3 games and yet they only have one victory to show.
Well, Alaska is summoning an inner-Ginebra in them. I never seen a team this resilient in the last few years of watching the PBA. Here are some factors why Alaska will win this tight series:
1. Blue Collar attitude - These Alaska Aces are not the same as the Tim Cone era Alaska. This year's team is more about intensity and not much about finesse and showtime. This kind of attitude or "angas" is best displayed in their leader, Calvin "The Beast" Abueva. His willingness to do the dirty work have infected the other Aces. Ping Exciminiano has transformed into a mini-beast. Dondon Hontiveros has never been this fiery. Good looking boys Thoss and Banchero are playing like tough men. The serious intensity of Alex Compton's boys have rattled the Beermen. They remind me of the Detroit Pistons Bad Boys that shackle Michael Jordan for a few years in the 1980's.
2. Comeback Kids - The Aces are never afraid playing from behind. They know they can rally and score in bunches. They seem to play better when they are behind. They have rallied from over 20 point deficits and they have been doing this all season long. Alaska got that mojo that can counter SMB's star power. Once Alaska gets the momentum, they are impossible to beat. They are slowly becoming the Ginebra San Miguel of this generation and no lead will be safe.
3. Speed and Pressure - The Aces have the speed to counter San Miguel's size. They have disrupted the vaunted half court offence of Leo Austria. The pressure caused so many deflections and delays to San Miguel's plays. It's so beautiful. They look like Pacquiao pressuring De la Hoya to give up.
4. Absence of Superstars - They are filled with good players but not the superstar kind. Calvin Abueva is their MVP but shooting and scoring is not really his forte. It's his defense and his ability to get into opponent's minds that makes him better this year. He is like a Dennis Rodman with better scoring. Hontiveros and Menk are past their primes. Thoss has been upstaged by younger and taller centers and he is now a bit undersized in the era of giants. They remind me a lot of the 2004 Detroit Pistons that cut down the star-studded LA Lakers.
Alaska's traits have full of victorious precedents and unless San Miguel make a radical adjustment this series will be going in favor of the underdogs. Alaska has a good chance of putting this series away by winning the pivotal Game 4.
Post-Mortem: San Miguel grabbed the title by winning Game 7 by 2 points. It was one heckuva Game 7. San Miguel at one point led 23 and the were leading by 21 at the half. That mammoth lead was practically erased in just 12 minutes. Alaska owned the second half. They are really joy to watch when the are behind. the Aces just do not know how to give up. They even had a 6 point lead with 4 minutes left in the game. San Miguel virtually took a page from Alaska by stealing the game in the final minutes. Can you imagine that these 2 teams are just separated by 2 points? I really give credit to the team's attitude and intensity. Alex Compton is a genius in adjustments and I look forward to a rivalry perhaps. ;)