The top team in the standings meets the team at the very bottom. The Alaska Aces have won their first two assignments, while the Mahindra Enforcers have struggled so far, losing back-to-back games to kickstart their season. It’s a battle of contrasts here, but it is by no means a foregone conclusion. Even if Alaska has been splendid in its last two outings, they cannot afford to count out the dangerous Enforcers in this duel in the desert.
Behind balanced production from its main players, Alaska was able to pull out a win over the Elite for a 2-0 slate. Seven players scored 7 or more points in that game, underscoring the balance and depth of the Aces’ roster. They will all be relied upon again here as the Aces try to cement their spot atop the league table.
Mahindra was in a good position to pull the rug from under TNT in their last game, but the endgame heroics of Jayson Castro and TNT’s experience in crunch time stifled the Enforcers’ promising outing. Still, there are many positives from that game — LA Revilla matched up well with Castro and Bradwyn Guinto held his own against TNT’s bigs.
1. LA REVILLA: MALIIT PERO MALUPIT
– Last season, Revilla was a revelation already as Kia/Mahindra’s top local player. It seems he hasn’t lost a beat an is ready to make the jump from great point guard to elite point guard. After matching up with Jayson Castro, he will be tested again Friday night against a former Gilas playmaker, JV Casio. Can he continue his efficient production on both ends of the floor?
Last game: 21pts, 9rebs, 2asts, 3 triples.
Stats: 14.0ppg, 5.0rpg, 7.0apg, 4.0spg, 2.0 triples per game.
2. GAWA SA GUINTO (GOLD)
– Bradwyn Guinto has been one of the unheralded young stars of this team so far. He is one of only a select number of players averaging double-doubles right now, and the only rookie to do so. It seems like the Enforcers have uncovered a diamond in the rough in Bradwyn Guinto.
Last game: 17pts, 13rebs, 3blks, 1stl, 1ast, 7/9 FGs.
Stats: 14.0ppg, 11.0rpg, 1.5bpg, 73.3 FG%.
3. ALDRECH RAMOS: BIG MAN HAS GAME
– The former FEU standout continues to impress with his new team. He has been effective on both ends, spreading the floor with his range, blocking shots, and grabbing rebounds. He may not be part of a title favorite, but he is certainly making the most of his tenure with Mahindra.
Last game: 13pts, 5rebs, 3blks, 1 triple, 6/11 FGs.
Stats: 13.5ppg, 6.0rpg, 3.5bpg, 1.5 triples per game, 50.0 FG%.
4. MAHINDRA: PROWESS IN THE PAINT
– The Enforcers have lived up to their moniker by being enforcers in the shaded lane. Despite losing to TNT, Mahindra was able to outscore the Texters in the paint and even outrebound them, too. Mahindra is actually one of the top rebounding teams in the league and is tops overall in offensive boards. Alaska, however, is the best overall rebounding squad, so it should be interesting to see how Mahindra will fare against the Aces around the basket.
Last game Pts in the Paint: MAH 48, TNT 32
Last game Rebounds: MAH 58, TNT 54
*MAH is 2nd best rebounding team now right behind… ALASKA!
*MAH is #1 in offensive rebounding with 21.5 per game
5. BIDANG ADONIS: CHRIS BANCHERO
– Banchero’s face can be seen on many posters and billboards around the metropolis, but, right now, it’s his game that has been doing all the talking. As of now, he is second on the team in scoring and is one of the most efficient offensive weapons the Aces have. It certainly seems there’s more to this Fil-foreigner than his looks, but can he continue to do that against a team as hungry as Mahindra?
Last game: 13pts, 2asts, 1stl, 2 triples, 4/6 FGs.
Stats: 13.5ppg, 4.5rpg, 2.0apg, 50.0 FG%.
6. BIDANG MASKULADO: VIC MANUEL
– The Muscle Man imposed his will on the Elite in their last game, playing efficiently despite limited time on the court (only 19 minutes). His potential match-up with either/both Guinto and Ramos here promises to be one to watch, but expect that Manuel will probably be the best low post operator in this game. Mano a mano, Mahindra will have a very tough time stopping Vic Manuel.
Last game: 13pts, 7rebs, 2blks, 6/11 FGs.
Stats: 17.5ppg, 8.5rpg, 1.0apg, 1.0bpg, 58.3 FG%.
7. JV CASIO: REJUVENATED?
– After his relatively so-so production last season, Casio seems to have been rejuvenated and has rediscovered his mojo this time around. He is playing at a much more efficient rate so far, and it seems his vaunted sharp-shooting is back. He will have his hands full trying to contain LA Revilla, though.
Last game: 10pts, 3rebs, 4asts, 1stl, 2 triples.
Stats: 13.5ppg, 3.5rpg, 4.0apg, 2.0 triples per game, 44.4 3pt%, 58.8 FG%.
Stats last season: 8.7ppg, 2.9rpg, 2.8apg, 1.4 triples per game, 32.0 3pt%, 39.1 FG%.
8. ALASKA: POTENT OFFENSE
– Alaska has emerged as an offensive juggernaut so far this conference. They are among the elite teams in several offensive categories, and it will be very surprising if the Aces offensive output drops off against a team like Mahindra. Limiting or holding down this offense will be a very difficult task for the Enforcers as the Aces can hit the basket from practically anywhere on the floor.
– 2nd in scoring – 100.5ppg
– 2nd in FG% – 45.9%
– 2nd in 3pt% – 38.9%
– 2nd in FT% – 72.1%
9. FEUD AT THE FRONTLINES: BRADWYN GUINTO VS SONNY THOSS
– It will be a fresh rookie going up against a tried-and-tested veteran in this game’s marquee match-up. Greenhorn Bradwyn Guinto will give up a couple of inches in size to Sonny Thoss, but the rookie from San Sebastian is not known for backing down form any opponent. He is used to playing against bigger, more athletic foes in the collegiate ranks, so he should be unfazed against Thoss. Sonny, meanwhile, is fresh off his latest Gilas stint, and he has been a solid complement to Manuel in Alaska’s frontcourt. If Thoss can hold his own here and put the clamps on Guinto, that will be a huge boost for the Aces’ chances.
Guinto last game: 17pts, 13rebs, 3blks, 1stl, 1ast, 7/9 FGs.
Guinto stats: 14.0ppg, 11.0rpg, 1.5bpg, 73.3 FG%.
Thoss last game: 6pts, 8rebs, 4asts, 1blk, 3/7 FGs.
Thoss stats: 11.5ppg, 7.5rpg, 2.5apg, 1.0bpg, 58.8 FG%.