San Mig Coffee decimates still winless Meralco
MANILA, Philippines - With well over two minutes left in the game on Tuesday night, May 27, the San Mig Super Coffee Mixers starters marched onto hardwood looking tired but very much relieved and satisfied.
They were leading by 22 points, 102-80, after an Allein Maliksi basket. And their bench players were getting minutes and much-needed experience. It was already clear that San Mig Coffee was on its way to a 2-1 slate.
Likewise, it was inevitable that the Meralco Bolts would have to absorb their 4th loss in as many games. They would also have to deal with the mystery of their inability to break into the win column so far of the 2014 PLDT Home Telpad PBA Governors' Cup.
"Everything is just boiling down to, we really lack the roster power to compete against the best of the league," said Meralco head coach Ryan Gregorio in the wake of his team's 108-90 loss against the Mixers at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
He explained how Jared Dillinger's back acted up during the game and how he missed the services of center Rabeh Al-Hussaini, who he said was in Kuwait fixing his papers and pension. Dillinger had no points on the board in this game.
The Bolts took a significant amount of time in the locker room to assess what they were doing wrong.
"Are we giving up? I told the players don't feel bad about the situation because you really played your best in the last 4 games, we were just unlucky."
Though on the part of Mixers head coach Tim Cone, the final score wasn't exactly indicative of the Mixers' struggles in the first half.
"It was a little bit of a struggle for us," Cone said. "It was a little bit of a frustrating first half because we didn't play with a lot of rhythm. We're always making turnovers.
"I always tell the players the first sign of fatigue and tiredness is being pikon (ill-tempered) and we get a little pikon at times because the fatigue sets in."
Perhaps the biggest blow for the Mixers - and the greatest moment of being ill-tempered in this game - came with 3:15 left in the second period as Marc Pingris was ejected from the game as a result of a flagrant foul penalty 2 on James Sena.
The exchange saw Sena appearing to have elbowed Pingris on the ribs, to which Pingris retaliated with a closed fist aimed at Sena's body.
Pingris finished with 10 points in 13 minutes of action.
"If we just focus strictly on the basketball game and not get caught up in our own little battles, then we're a very good team," Cone remarked.
"They're (players) gonna find their own little battles in the game and it kind of hurts us overall. We just gotta stay focused. We're a mature team by this point. That kind of stuff should roll off us because we are focused on just winning."
Cone's Mixers, buoyed by the 22 points of PJ Simon, broke the game wide open early in the payoff period.
It was a Simon breakaway bucket that put San Mig on top by double figures, 80-69, with over 9 minutes left.
The lead ballooned to 94-75 after a Simon one-hander and consecutive triples by Simon and Maliksi.
The glaring problem for Meralco in this game was their defense. They allowed the Mixers to score more than 100 points on a 58.6% field goal shooting clip, while shooting only 39.3% themselves.
Turnovers also killed the Bolts as the Mixers collected 23 markers off Meralco's 18 miscues.
Blocks became an effective weapon for San Mig as well with a total of 9 against only one by Meralco.
San Mig Coffee import Marqus Blakely, who had 16 points and 18 rebounds, was responsible for 7 of those 9 blocks.
Cone commended Rafi Reavis for filling in the shoes of Pingris "admirably" as he finished with 6 points 5 boards. More importantly, Cone was satisfied with how Reavis made life difficult for Meralco import Mario West.
West led the Bolts with 31 points to go with 11 rebounds and 8 assists.
Cliff Hodge added 21 points and 11 rebounds as well for Meralco as Gary David had a quiet night and finished with only 6 markers on 1-of-4 shooting from deep.
For Cone, this win was their redemption from a tough San Miguel Beermen loss in their last game.
"We showed our bounce back-ability today coming back from that San Miguel loss," Cone said.
"That was a painful loss. I think more for me than the players because I screwed that one up but they bounced back very well from it. And I think that's one of the keys to a very good team, their bounce back-ability."
San Mig Super Coffee Mixers 108 - Simon 22, Blakely 16, Barroca 15, Yap 13, Pingris 10, Maliksi 9, Sangalang 8, Reavis 6, Gaco 4, Mallari 3, Devance 2, Holstein 0, Melton 0.
Meralco Bolts 90 - West 31, Hodge 21, Caram 8, Wilson 7, Sena 6, David 6, Hugnatan 6, Salvacion 3, Bringas 2, Ildefonso 0, Timberlake 0, Dillinger 0.
Quarter scores: 30-23, 52-46, 76-69, 108-90.