The Rain or Shine Elasto-Painters and the Alaska Aces are the only two remaining teams still standing in the 2016 PBA Commissioner’s Cup. An interesting aspect here is that we will certainly have new kings on the block no matter who ends up with the title. Alaska last won the Commish Cup in 2013 behind the exploits of import Rob Dozier, who is also their current import, replacing initial choice Shane Edwards. Rain or Shine, for its part, has never won the Commish Cup, and the Painters will surely leave nothing to chance when they open the fray today against the Aces.
Let’s look at some key aspects of this Finals series and see which team has the inside track to win it all.
Import match-up: Pierre Henderson-Niles vs Rob Dozier
Henderson-Niles has the size and heft to push anyone out of the block. Couple that with Extra Rice, Inc. and coach Yeng Guiao has his own version of the Bash Brothers. In that regard, I pity in advance Rob Dozier and Sonny Thoss, both of whom will undoubtedly bear the brunt of the ROS frontline’s carnage. On the other hand, Dozier has a more polished all-around game than Henderson-Niles, and the former Best Import has shown that he can extend his range from way way out. If Dozier can hit those long toms and be his usual self around the basket, Henderson-Niles’s impact may not be severe.
The surge of JR Quinahan:
Quinahan has been having a superb season for ROS, and he is one literally huge reason they have done so well. ROS has, in fact, done something Alaska failed to do this season — beat San Miguel Beer in a playoff series. Quinahan is actually ROS’s leading scorer right now, and I have no doubt he will be one of the main cogs for the Painters in this series. If Vic Manuel is unable to return soon, it’ll be pretty tough for guys like Thoss and Noy Baclao to contain Quinahan.
The awesomeness of Calvin Abueva:
Abueva remains one of the most polarizing personalities in the PBA, and he’ll surely make a big impact in this series. His vastly improved perimeter game has all but made him more dangerous, and, of course, his trademark energy and motor remain top-tier. If ROS isn’t careful and Abueva is allowed to run wild, the Aces may make short work of the Painters. The onus will be on Gabe Norwood and Jireh Ibanes to try and contain the Beast, who may just win Best Player of the Conference if Alaska fares well in this series.
The rise of Maverick Ahanmisi:
When coach Yeng picked Ahanmisi at 3rd overall in the 2015 PBA Draft, not a few people were shocked. The Fil-Am’s numbers in the Philippine Cup didn’t seem to justify such a high pick, but the Painters are reaping the benefits now as Ahanmisi seems to finally be well-adjusted to the PBA’s style of play and the team’s system. Compare his numbers from the Philippine Cup and the Commish Cup semis:
PHL Cup – 8.3ppg, 4.3rpg, 2.7apg, 28.6 3pt%, 38.6 FG%
Comm Cup semis – 13.5ppg, 5.5rpg, 4.5apg, 35.3 3pt%, 48.6 FG%
If Ahanmisi’s level of play continues to rise and Paul Lee rediscovers his killer form, the Painters will have a near-unstoppable backcourt duo.
The Chris Banchero effect:
If Banchero plays well, the Aces tend to win. This was seen in their semis series with Meralco. In the games Banchero scored in double-figures, the Aces won. In the games he was held to single digits, Alaska lost. The great thing about Banchero is he doesn’t need a ton of minutes to do a ton of good things. For the semis, he played under 26 minutes a game and still managed to score nearly 12 points and grave 3 rebounds per contest while shooting 53.3% from the floor. Ironically, he’d probably fit in well with a coach like Yeng Guiao, who tries to spread his minutes as evenly as he can.
This will ultimately come down to a battle between ROS’s blistering offense and Alaska’s stifling defense. As of this writing, ROS is the #2 team in scoring this conference (104.1ppg), they top the league in 2pt FG% (50.7%), and they are second in 3pt makes per outing (10.6 threes per game). On the other end, is #3 in defense (93.5 points allowed per game), #1 in steals (8.8spg), #1 in forcing turnovers (19.2 per game), and #1 in scoring off their foes’ turnovers (21.0ppg). If the “offense wins games, but defense wins championships” adage holds true here, we should be seeing the Aces raise the Commish Cup crown when the dust clears.