MANILA, Philippines – The Alaska Aces were overeager to start their game against the NLEX Road Warriors on Monday, and they wound up paying for it.
This, according to Alaska head coach Alex Compton after the Aces succumbed to the Road Warriors, 105-99, in Game 1 of their best-of-3 series in the PBA Philippine Cup quarterfinals at the Mall of Asia Arena.
NLEX opened up a 17-10 lead after the first six minutes of the game, and wound up leading by as much as 11 points, 50-39, in the first half. Only a split at the line by Vic Manuel with 37 seconds left in the second quarter allowed Alaska to head into the break down by 10 points.
"We're typically a team that near the top of the league in assists but we only had four assists in the first half," Compton told reporters after the game. "You know sa mga ganitong pangyayari, the players wanted to help so much, they wanted to make the play."
"Talagang may gigil," he acknowledged. "So instead of executing they wanna help make the play."
It was this "gigil" that got ground their offense to a slog, with the Aces often settling for poor shots that inevitably led to transition opportunities for the Road Warriors.
Fortunately for Alaska, they were able to turn things around in the second half. Better ball movement led to open looks for their guards, such as Chris Banchero, JVee Casio and Simon Enciso who knocked down perimeter shots to cut into the deficit.
They also pounced on the NLEX big men's foul trouble, with Manuel and Sonny Thoss repeatedly challenging the defense of Michael Miranda and Rabeh Al-Hussaini inside the paint.
All this combined to bring Alaska back to the game, and they even went on to lead by four, 96-92, with just under three minutes left. However, they gave up a four-point play to Larry Fonacier with just 2:40 left to play, then had no answer for Kiefer Ravena in the final 90 seconds of the contest.
"Hats off to NLEX," said Compton. "They did a really good job of closing out late."
"I thought Kiefer obviously played really well, and Kevin (Alas) did a great job for them again. They made shots – Kiefer hit one three from somewhere behind the scorers' table," he noted, while also pointing out that Alaska missed several easy looks and free throws in the clutch.
"We must have missed some five around-the-basket little bunnies," Compton said.
The good thing for Alaska is that they still have a chance. NLEX took a 1-0 lead in the best-of-3 quarterfinals series, but they can still force a deciding game with a victory in Wednesday's Game 2.
"Hopefully, we'll be able to bounce back," said Compton. "The great thing about a series is, we're not done. Hopefully, we'll be able to clean some things up, and prepare for adjustments on their side."
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