AIR21 used a crippling 20-2 run in the fourth period as it manhandled Barako Bull Energy, 101-86 to get the Express to a franchise-best 2-0 start in the PBA Governors Cup on Saturday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Big man Asi Taulava again stood at the forefront of the Express, posting his second straight double-double with 22 points and 12 rebounds, while adding five assists as he mocked the defense thrown at him by Barako Bull.
Import Dominique Sutton also exploded for a team-high 24 points, to go along with 16 rebounds, six steals and four assists, energizing the Air21 franchise that is preparing for its early collision with fan favorite Barangay Ginebra on Tuesday.
“It’s a good win for us. We’re successful the last two games because we’re playing within our system and using our strength,” Air21 coach Franz Pumaren said after the game.
Pumaren described Sutton as a “right-fit” import because of what he can bring to an Express team that is looking to improve on its franchise-best fourth place finish in the recent Commissioner’s Cup.
“Our import is really right for our system while everybody’s stepping up, especially the bench guys,” he said.
The Express committed just eight turnovers, another franchise record for the team that joined the league in the 2011-12 season as Shopinas Clickers.
“Everybody I think knows their respective role. So this (win) is a good take off point on Tuesday which is a big game for us,” he added.
The Energy, who fell to 1-2 under new coach Siot Tanquingcen, closed in at 60-62 midway in the third quarter on a three-point shot by rookie guard Jeric Fortuna.
But Barako Bull lost control of the match as it ran into a maze of turnovers, made worse after import Eric Wise was accidentally hit in the face by Sutton midway in the fourth period, leaving the Energy without their top scorer and rebounder.
Wise finished the game with 24 points and seven rebounds, while Fortuna added 13, six rebounds and four assists.