San Mig Coffee remains the occupant of the PBA Commissioner’s Cup throne.
The titleholder hung on to dear life as it fought with a gritty resolve and got even with Meralco, 100-92, in Game Two of their best-of-three quarterfinals showdown at the Smart Araneta Coliseum Sunday night.
On Wednesday in the same venue, the Mixers and the Bolts lock horns again, knocking each other out for the right to play the Alaska Aces in the semifinals.
“We certainly haven’t won anything yet and there’s nothing to get excited about. We really need to take a more businesslike approach in this series,” said San Mig coach Tim Cone.
“We didn’t do that in Game One but we did better in Game Two. We also got something from James (Yap) tonight and that’s a key,” Cone added. “He’s okay to start the game but when he rest, his back stiffens up. We need constant management through the game.”
Denzel Bowles came through with his usual numbers while Alex Mallari got away with a career game, carrying much of the load as the Mixers recovered from their 85-88 loss Friday.
Bowles collected 35 points and 14 rebounds while Mallari piled up 16 markers, improving his previous career-best of 15.
With their backs against the wall, Cone rotated practically only seven men in this game. All these guys rose up to the challenge, and the Mixers reigned on with a chance to repeat their similar conquest of the Bolts in the same stage of the tourney last year.
“We’ve got two days off, and we’re hoping two days of therapy makes James a bit healthy. It’s not my choice not to play him much. If this is just a regular elims play, he won’t be playing at all,” said Cone.
“We’re doing the best we can and the best James can. We’re hoping to pull this off,” Cone added.
Tapped to play 25 minutes, the two-time MVP awardee contributed seven points, four assists and one rebound against one turnover. He was 3-of-6 from the field.
In the crunch, Mallari and PJ Simon ably filled up Yap’s absence.
Providing the Mixers biggest relief was Bowles with his relentless performance, netting him 12 points in the first half, 10 in the third period and 13 in the payoff quarter.
The reigning Best Import awardee grabbed an offensive rebound and struck with a three-point playoff off Cliff Hodge as the Mixers took a double-digit spread, 88-78, with eight minutes left to play.
As they gave that opening, the Bolts were no longer able to recover, dogged by a poor shooting at the finish.
Going to naught was Eric Dawson’s near triple-double performance (23 points, 23 rebounds and eight assists). (SB)
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