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Jun 08, 2019

Frontcourt, guards' duels spice up Aces-Bolts setto

NO LESS than Alaska coach Alex Compton admitted that not too much weight should be given his team's most recent win against Magnolia Ang Pambansang Manok, no matter how impressive it was.

"We caught them tired... and kinda with a lack of preparation," was how Compton practically shrugged off the 103-80 win last Wednesday over the Hotshots, who were making their conference debut after a long layoff from their Philippine Cup finals stint.

"I know what that's like, from the finals we've been in before," added Compton. "So, with the quick turnaround you don't see another team's best - when they're coming off the finals - in their first game."

Meralco should be an entirely different matter and solid proof of that should be had when it collides with Alaska Sunday in the PBA Commissioner's Cup at the Ynares Center.

Both the Bolts and the Aces are gunning for a third straight win that would give one a 4-2 slate and sole hold of fourth-running spot.

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Based on that lopsided triumph over Magnolia, Alaska should be favored and even Meralco coach Norman Black expects his Bolts to be in for a long night.

"It will be a tough matchup with Alaska," said Black on the eve of the match.

"They looked very good in their last victory versus Magnolia," Black added. "Our interior defense versus (Alaska import Chris) Daniels will be important. We also must limit our turnovers versus their fullcourt press."

Meralco could dish out the same dose of defensive pressure, however, as proven in its back-to-back wins over recent Philippine Cup semifinalists Rain or Shine and Phoenix Pulse, the last via a 101-95 decision just last Friday.

"They beat us in a tuneup, and they just got Raymond Almazan," noted Compton. "They are arguably the most disciplined team in the league."

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And as much as Daniels could turn a game around, like when he boomed in four triples in the third quarter to pull the Aces away for good from the Hotshots' clutches, the Bolts also have Gani Lawal leading their own attack.

Lawal was again the biggest factor against the Fuel Masters, notching 28 points and 26 rebounds. Nineteen of his points and 16 of his boards came in the second half, including nine and 10 in the decisive fourth period.

The protagonists each has a welcome boost in the frontline, too.

In his first game of the season following an assortment of back and calf injuries, Vic Manuel scored six points in just under nine minutes of action against Magnolia. But his impact goes beyond those numbers, according to Black.

"He's re-entry really energizes those guys," noted Black.

Almazan, acquired from Rain or Shine just before the mid-season conference, also got his first feel of an official game for Meralco against Phoenix, also starting his way back in with three points in just under 13 minutes.

What should steal some of the limelight away from the frontliners are the backcourt duels between Jayvee Casio and Chris Banchero of the Aces and the Bolts' Baser Amer and Trevis Jackson. (NC)