by Tito S. Talao
Game Today (Smart Araneta Coliseum)
8 p.m. – San Mig Coffee vs Rain or Shine
Manila, Philippines – San Mig Super Coffee star James Yap stood out in Game 1 of the PBA PLDT Home Telpad Governors’ Cup Finals Tuesday. Rain or Shine coach Yeng Guiao believes, however, the no-call on a 3-point attempt at the buzzer may have kept Paul Lee from standing out as well.
Yap accounted for nine of San Mig’s final 13 points in a nerve-fraying 104-101 victory at the start of the best-of-5 championship series at the Mall of Asia Arena as the Mixers came within two wins of becoming only the league’s fourth grand slam champion after Crispa (1976 and 1983), San Miguel Beer (1989) and Alaska Milk (1996).
Game 2 is at 8 tonight at the Smart Araneta Coliseum, with the Elasto Painters looking to put behind them the painful manner by which the door was slammed on their faces two days ago.
While the dying-second controversy in no way robbed the opener of its glitter nor Yap of his brilliance, it nevertheless gave Rain or Shine reason to cast doubt on the validity of the outcome.
“I just thought Paul got fouled in the last play,” a furious Guiao said at the post-game interview.
Video replay seemed to back up Guiao’s assertion.
Paul Lee got the cross-court pass with three seconds left and Rain or Shine trailing, 104-101. With San Mig forward Marc Pingris giving him no clear view of the basket for a just-behind-the-arc three-point shot, Lee took a step back with Pingris appearing to follow.
The two then bumped into each other as Lee tried to get off a shot and was sprawled on the floor at the buzzer.
When no whistle was blown, both teams rushed into the court at the same time – the Mixers in jubilation; the E-Painters in rage.
Guiao, along with several RoS officials stormed in within three or four meters from where PBA commissioner Chito Salud sat but came no closer.
“It was the three-point shot that would’ve given us a chance to tie the game [with three free throws] and at least go for overtime,” said Guiao.
Instead the E-Painters were left to rue what could have been.
“That’s just too big a break to lose. It’s something we deserved but we did not get it,” said Guiao. “This is going to be a close series with close games. But if the refs don’t do their jobs as they’re supposed to, it really diminishes the beauty of the series.”
Perry Martinez, the PBA technical consultant, said on TV that he felt a foul should have been called, lending credence somewhat to Rain or Shine’s claim.
A source bared E-Painters team owner Raymond Yu had called Salud after the game but no details of the phone conversation were made available.
San Mig coach Tim Cone, who is eyeing his second Grand Slam, prudently steered away from the tempest.
“I don’t know whether that was a foul or not,” said Cone. “I was far away.”
Cone had a ringside view, however, when Yap took over in the fourth quarter, essentially with two free throws, a huge 3-point shot off a Pingris hand-off, and a trigger-quick 15-footer off another Pingris screen in front of the Mixers bench that made it 101-98 with 16 seconds remaining.
“James hit the tough 3 and the tough leaning jumper,” Cone marveled. “He made it look easy at a very crucial time.”
Beyond the disputed no-call, Rain or Shine will have to find answers to how it failed to protect a 17-point lead in the third quarter where Alein Maliksi, along with San Mig’s second team, came off the bench and torched the EPainters’ defense.
Maliksi played just 12 minutes but had 10 points on 3 of 4 shooting with 4 charities. Mark Barroca added 11 points, Ian Sangalang 7 and Rafi Reavis 5, all as non-starters.
“We have all the respect for this team,” said Cone, who stoked the fire from under his cold-starting players in the first half. “Hopefully, we’re smart enough to know that we can’t come out flat in a game in this series.”