AFTER taking a much-needed break to give way to the FIBA World Cup qualifiers, Alaska Milk and Magnolia begin their much-awaited best-of-seven title series today in the PBA Governors’ Cup at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay.
Game time is 7 p.m. with odds about even between the Aces, who have already won 14 titles in 30 previous finals appearances, and the Hotshots, who have won 13 titles in 28 finals stints.
Both teams are well-rested and ready for a tough grind.
The Aces return from a 17-day rest while the Hotshots had took a day longer.
“Tomorrow (Wednesday) is the start of what I believe will be a tough and exciting finals series,” said Alaska coach Alex Compton, who is hoping to lead the Aces to the title for the first time since 2013 when the Robert Dozier-led team swept Barangay Ginebra in their best-of-five finals.
Comption, however, was quick to remind his players not to take the Hotshot slightly.
“Magnolia has been playing the best basketball in the PBA all conference,” said Compton, who was still an assistant coach when the Aces swept the Gin Kings five years ago.
“The way they (Hotshots) have defended and moved basketball lets me know that we had better play the best we have played as a team if we want to win this championship,” added Compton, whose team made the finals four times but failed to clinch a single title.
In 2016, the Aces were beaten by Rain or Shine in the finals.
Like Alaska, Magnolia is also hungry for the title and coach Chito Victolero is fully aware of what the team needs to do to get over the hump.
“We’re taking it one game at a time so every game is very important to us, and I think both teams pupokpok sa Game 1 para makauna sa series,” said Victolero, who has now steered the Hotshots to their 29th finals appearance.
“Yung match-up namin ng Alaska is equal, no advantage and disadvantage. Walang pinagbago, tablang-tabla pa rin ang dalawang teams. Ang kinaibahan lang siguro ngayon parehong fresh ang dalawang teams kaya baka mas mataas ang level ng labanan sa series na ito."
The long rest, however, appears to favor Magnolia more.
“For us, malaking tulong talaga yung break. In the past week, nakabalik na sina Romeo Travis, Paul Lee at Ian Sangalang,” Victolero also said.
Romeo, Lee and Sangalang had slight injuries at the end of their semifinal conquest of Barangay Ginebra.
After pulling off the league’s fifth grand slam in 2014 when they were still called San Mig Coffee, the Hotshots have not won a title since then.
Early this year, Magnolia managed to advance to the finals of the Philippine Cup, but lost to sister team San Miguel Beer.