SAN Miguel leaned on veteran Asi Taulava to avert a late collapse as the Beermen escaped with a 70-62 win over the Sports Rev Thailand Slammers and move within arms’ reach of making the Finals of the Asean Basketball League Tuesday night.
Taulava finished with 13 points and six rebounds but, more importantly, held his own against the Slammers after San Miguel’s two imports fouled out one after the other late in Game 3 of the semifinals series at the Nimbutr Stadium in Bangkok.
The Beermen now hold a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five series with a chance to close out the Slammers and barge into the Finals with another win in Game 4 Thursday night also in the Thai capital.
San Miguel won despite losing grip of a 21-point first half lead as it survived a spirited Slammers second half comeback.
In the end, the huge cushion was enough for the Beermen to ward off the home team’s endgame comeback.
San Miguel coach Leo Austria expects the Slammers to come back stronger next game.
“I’m really expecting this kind of game. Fortunately, we had a good run in the first quarter. But (Thailand) refused to lose. We are fortunate that we were able to survive,” said Austria.
Brian Williams and Justin Williams finished the game sitting on the bench as they fouled out one after the other in the midst of Thailand’s endgame rally.
The Slammers were just within five points following a putback by import Chris Charles when Justin Williams was whistled for his final foul.
But Taulava took charge for the Beermen, defending well against Charles until the end.
Chris Banchero then hit a running shot and Erik Menk banked in back-to-back jumpers to give the Beermen a 68-59 edge with 1:17 remaining in the game.
Taulava later hit two crucial free throws to settle the outcome in the final 30 seconds.
Brian Williams topscored for San Miguel with 14 points before fouling out.