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PBA: San Mig, Express to break deadlock

Asi Taulava vs James Mays2

Game Today (Smart Araneta )
5 p.m. – San Mig Super Coffee vs Air21

Manila, Philippines – San Mig Super Coffee head coach Tim Cone doesn’t believe that by winning the previous game to tie the semifinal series against Air21, momentum has now shifted on their side.

However, winning Game 2 is a good start to get the energy level up as they aim for another victory.

Following a morale-boosting win, the Mixers hope to take full advantage of that confidence when they face the Express in Game 3 of their playoff showdown in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup today at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

“That’s just one game, and we just tied the series. One game doesn’t make momentum, but if we can win two or three, that’s where you build a momentum,” said Cone after the Mixers downed the Express, 82-75, to level the series at 1-1 last Thursday at the Big Dome.

The game, billed as ‘Petron Saturday Special’, is set at 5 p.m.

The multi-title Cone, who owns the PBA record for most championships with 16, said he is pleased with the defensive effort of his players, which he hopes they can carry to Game 3.

After Air21 scored a 103-100 victory in the series-opener last Tuesday, San Mig buckled down on defense in Game 2, limiting Express import Wes Witherspoon and firebrand Sean Anthony to eight points each after the two combined for 54 points in Game 1.

Before the semifinal series, the Mixers were limiting opponents to 81 points per game, which is second in the PBA this conference, while the Express averaged 91.4 points, ranked 6th overall.

San Mig import James Mays finished with 21 points and 23 rebounds, PJ Simon contributed 13 points, while rookie guard Justin Melton came off the bench to add 12 markers.

“I felt we got back to our identity,” said Cone, whose team unleashed a 19-3 blast that turned a 31-deadlock into a 50-34 lead at halftime. They led by as many as 20 points early in the fourth period (77-57).

Cone knows that to win again, they have to maintain that defensive tenacity, saying: “We have to play defense like we did in this game, and it’ll create scoring opportunities for us.”

“Air21 is a tough team, they are a confident team, they believe in themselves,” added Cone.

While defense is the key for the Mixers, Express mentor Franz Pumaren said they have to find ways to score, particularly Witherspoon, who went 3-of-12 from the field, including 0-of-5 from three-point range.

“We played very bad, we started bad. We did not execute what we’re supposed to do,” said Pumaren. “One glaring adjustment is our import. We need his scoring if we want to compete.”

“Hopefully this wakes us up and not let us drift away from what we’re doing. One good thing, though, is that even if we played bad, we didn’t quit,” said Pumaren as Air21 cut the 20-point deficit to seven points (80-73) late in the game.

Asi Taulava led the Express in Game 2 with 21 points and 18 rebounds in 39 minutes of action, and the 41-year-old, 6-foot-10 center is again expected to be a force to reckon with under the basket.

But for Air21 to compete, other locals must also step up like Joseph Yeo, Mark Cardona, Jonas Villanueva, Aldrech Ramos, rookie Eloy Poligrates and Anthony, whose status is day-to-day due to a sprained left ankle. (Waylon Galvez)