by Tito S. Talao
Game Today (Smart Araneta)
4:45 p.m. – Petron vs San Mig Coffee
Manila, Philippines – How does one stop a speeding locomotive?
For its sake, San Mig Coffee better find out fast.
Fueled by a winning tradition unmatched in Philippine Basketball Association history, Petron Blaze is expected to crush obstacles San Mig will put up in Game 2 of the PBA Governors Cup Finals today as its quest for a 20th title continues at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Gametime is at 4:45 p.m.
Roaring in the fourth quarter after getting held back twice in the first half and for most of the third period in Game 1 last Friday, the Boosters ran over the Mixers in a blazing finish to take the opener of the PLDT-Telpad Best-of-7 Championship Series, 100-84, at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Their 41 points in the last 12 minutes wiped out San Mig’s defensive efforts, allowing six Boosters, led by Elijah Millsap, to churn out double figures.
Millsap’s third triple-double performance this conference (35 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists in 45 minutes) overwhelmed the production of San Mig counterpart Marqus Blakely (23, 14 and 4). Millsap struck for 14 in the fourth, Blakely two points.
Tim Cone, the San Mig coach who is eyeing his 15th championship to tie the record of the legendary Baby Dalupan, admitted his team coughed and sputtered when the opener turned into a drag race.
“We just broke down. Against this team, we should bring a lot more,” said Cone.
San Mig did – in the first three quarters.
But after entering the fourth with a 61-59 lead as a result of their unyielding drive at the start of the second half, the Mixers suddenly dried up, with Peter June Simon (13 points) and Joe Devance (10) contributing just two points when the Boostes were burying them under a hail of 3-pointers (6).
“They just got rolling with their three-pointers,” said Cone.
Petron finished with 10 of 20, San Mig 2 of 14.
Gee Abanilla, the Petron rookie head coach, said he was happily surprised at seamlessly finding their rhythm in the last quarter.
“It’s just a total team effort, I think,” he said. It was, especially since San Mig was successful in coming back from double-digit deficits in the first half before engaging Petron in a furious exchange in the third which the Mixers took, 25-18.
But Petron set everything on fire in the final turn for home, with Millsap and Chris Lutz (all 11 of his total output including 3 of 3 from 3-point range) torching the San Mig defense.
“Elijah’s just showing different dimensions of his game,” said Abanilla of his import’s triple-double
show. “Even though he can shoot, he still shares the ball.”
James Yap, San Mig’s main source of outside scoring, was held down to 2 of 9 from the floor by the frenetic Ronald Tubid, who took advantage of his familiarity with Yap’s moves from their days as teammates at University of the East.
San Mig tried to get Petron’s Junmar Fajardo out of the equation by drawing him out to open up under recipients of high post lob passes from Yancy de Ocampo.
And for a while it worked. But the Boosters made their adjustments to plug the middle and Fajardo eventually asserted himself for 12 points and 8 rebounds, with his thunderous Tomahawk dunk in the fourth quarter bringing the house down.
Their fluid offense notwithstanding, Abanilla bared he would seek answers as to why the Mixers had 26 free throws to their 12, a disparity that was however negated by the Mixers’ 18 turnovers from where Petron picked up 21 points.
The Boosters committed just 13 errors in yielding 8 points.