The Alaska Aces try to resume their winning ways in the 2017 Philippine Basketball Association Commissioner’s Cup when they meet the Phoenix Petroleum Fuel Masters 4:15 p.m., Friday, April 21 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Aces, thanks to the deadly shooting of import Cory Jefferson, racked up four consecutive wins before they were ambushed by Meralco last week when they dropped a 91-99 decision to the Bolts.
The Aces (4 wins, 1 loss) are currently tied at third place with TNT KaTropa (4-1) behind the league leading San Miguel Beermen (4-0) and the Bolts (6-1). Trailing them are Barangay Ginebra (3-1), the Star Hotshots (4-2) and the Rain Or Shine Elasto Painters (4-2).
Bringing up the rear are Phoenix (2-4), the GlobalPort Batang Pier (1-4), the Blackwater Elite (1-5), the Mahindra Floodbuster (1-6) and the NLEX Road Warriors (0-7).
Jefferson scored at will against all guards thrown at him as he powered the then unbeaten Aces to one win after another at the start of the conference.
The Aces opened the Commissioner’s Cup with a 107-79 demolition of Batang Pier at the Cuneta Astrodome last March 18. Alaska followed that up with similarly convincing 109-95 victory over GlobalPort last March 22 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
They then beat Mahindra, 98-92, last March 29 at the Mall of Asia Arena. The Aces capped their winning run with hard-earned 105-102 victory over the defending champion Elasto Painters before they were tripped by the Bolts.
Jefferson, one of the deadliest shooters to play in the PBA in recent years, has been virtually unstoppable from all distances as he powered the Aces to their victories.
Jefferson leads the league with an average of 31.8 points per game. He is also the league’s best three-point shooter with an eye-popping 56 percent conversion rate from three-point distance. Jefferson has played an instrumental role for Alaska.
The Aces will again rely on their fearsome full-court pressing defense to harass the guards of Phoenix, force turnovers and score transition points.
Calvin Abueva, Ping Exciminiano, Abel Galliguez, Simon Enciso, Jaypee Mendoza and Kevin Racal have been working hard at both ends of the court for the Aces.
The Aces will also need significant contributions from big men Sonny Thoss, Jake Pascual and Yutien Andrada, who have been silently but effectively manning the paint, if they hope to beat the Fuel Masters.
Veterans Jvee Casio and Tony Dela Cruz have also contributed. Casio sets up Alaska’s offense and snipes from the outside. Against Meralco Dela Cruz was flawless from the field as he converted two-of-two attempts from three-point distance and two-of-two free throws against the Bolts.