San Mig Coffee escapes Alaska to force Game 3 in QFs
MANILA, Philippines - Between two defense-oriented squads, something had to give.
Unfortunately for the Alaska Aces, it was one major break in the game that changed the tide and halted their dominant display on Wednesday night, April 23 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Playmaker Mark Barroca of the San Mig Super Coffee Mixers, in an attempt to finally get their noses ahead for the first time since the first quarter, kept his eye on the ring with 5:42 remaining in the game. He drove but was met by defenders in red shirts, forcing him to take more than the allowed steps as he sank the basket and fished for the foul to go with it, 58-57.
It was a clear traveling violation on the video replay but it was a break in the game that permanently shifted the momentum to the side of a gritty San Mig Coffee.
The Mixers lit up from that point until the very end as they defeated Alaska, 70-65, to force Game 3 of their best-of-3 quarterfinals series in the 2014 PLDT Home TVolution Commissioner's Cup.
"Somehow we won it," said Mixers head coach Tim Cone. "I'm not sure how but we'll take it and see what we can do in Game 3."
The Mixers struggled for most of the game, especially during the beginning when they were down by 12, 35-24, heading into the second half.
Somehow, in some way, however, San Mig was able to get their rhythm going enough to spark a sizzling 16-0 blast in the final 9 minutes of the payoff period to stay in the hunt for what could potentially be their third straight championship.
The Mixers turned a 51-57 deficit into a 10-point 67-57 lead with 1:16 to play on a Joe Devance one-hander.
Alaska tried to stage a comeback in the final minute with the help of Dondon Hontiveros' hot shooting as he and JVee Casio conspired for back-to-back three-pointers to threaten San Mig, 69-65, with 50.4 ticks left.
But all the Mixers did was play a steady game from the free throw line as bail out triple attempts by import Rob Dozier and Casio did not hit the mark.
Just like the first game, it was an up and down battle that saw both teams tightening up on defense and not yielding an inch. It was all down to which team could click on offense and who would get the breaks of the game.
"This was just grind-it-out basketball, pure and simple," Cone remarked. "That's what we tried to do in the second half.
"It's just a huge struggle playing against Alaska's defense. It's hard to find any gaps or breaks or anything inside their defense. It's so incredibly solid and quite frustrating. They're very frustrating to play. It's hard to get a flow."
Hontiveros played an inspired ball game with 16 points (3-of-9 three-point field goals) and 7 rebounds. Dozier scored a game-high 22 markers along with 13 boards.
Marc Pingris finally returned to his old form after his rib injury with 17 points as Devance and import James Mays added 13 and 12 points, respectively.
Cone's wards also converted 12 turnover points as opposed to only 5 by the Commissioner's Cup defending champions.
Cone praised the Aces for the way they have been playing, saying they are "defending at a championship level." But also commended how his wards simply did not break down against their opponents no matter how tough it got.
"Our guys are not going to just lay down because they like to win."
San Mig Coffee (70): Pingris 17, Devance 13, Mays 12, Barroca 10, Yap 9, Simon 4, Sanggalang 2, Reavis 2, Mallari 1, Melton 0.
Alaska (65): Dozier 22, Hontiveros 16, Baguio 7, Casio 6, Jazul 6, Abueva 4, Thoss 3, Manuel 1, Reyes 0, Dela Cruz 0, Espinas 0.
Quarters scores: 12-16; 24-36; 49-50; 70-65.