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PBA: San Mig guns for finals slot

Marc Pingris and Wesley Witherspoon


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

Maybe this best-of-5 series has gone far enough.

San Mig Super Coffee guns for a seat in the championship series today when it meets Air21 in Game 4 of the semifinals in the PLDT Home TVolution PBA Commissioner’s Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

The Mixers, bone-weary from the rugged playoff battle with the defending champion Alaska Aces, lost the opener to the Express but took their next two meetings to regain lost ground and momentum going to this final-clinching game at 8 p.m.

A deciding fifth game hasn’t been ruled out, but the Express will need to find something deep within them to deny the seemingly inevitable.

Air21, with a resurrected Asi Taulava dismissing big man sensation June Mar Fajardo, became only the 9th PBA team to eliminate a twice-to-beat No. 2 seed when it booted out San Miguel Beer in the quarterfinals.

The Express then stayed in the sports headlines following the feat by shocking San Mig Super Coffee in Game 1 of the semifinals, 103-100, at the Mall of Asia Arena, putting in jeopardy Ai421’s bid for back-to-back titles.

All worries, it turned out, were unfounded.

San Mig leveled the series three days later, 82-75, and then went up, 2-1, after dominating Game 3, 84-73.

Mixers coach Tim Cone is nonetheless bracing for war.

“It’s going to be tough, definitely. But we’ll go for it,” said Cone, who is eyeing his third finals appearance with the franchise and its 26th overall. “We expect Air21 to go all-out and force a Game 5, but we will be ready.”

The Express could use a little of Cone’s optimism and resolve. “We are down right now but we’ve been in this kind of situation last week in the quarterfinals,” said Air21 mentor Franz Pumaren. “ We can’t allow [James] Mays to totally dominate; we must find a solution to limit his offensive rebounds.”

The Express will likely be missing again Game 1 hero Sean Anthony, who sprained his left ankle late in Game 2 and sat out the next one. “We need to fill in the big gap of Sean and execute better,” said Pumaren.