WITH both imports expected to cancel each other out, Mike Cortez expects the locals to make the difference when Air21 and defending champion San Mig Coffee square off on Wednesday in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup at the Cuneta Astrodome.
Cortez believes Express import Michael Dunigan and Mixers counterpart Denzel Bowles - easily among the finest imports in the conference - are more or less evenly matched, leaving him and the rest of the Express to take care of business if they hope to stretch their winning run to three.
Game time is at 7:30 p.m.
“Bowles versus Dunigan? That’s a pretty good match-up. But I think they’ll cancel each other out,” noted the 6-foot Cortez.
So far, Air21 has scored back-to-back wins including a huge 74-68 upset of league-leading Alaska last week at the Ynares Center in Antipolo, although the Express still remain in the bottom half of the standings with a 3-5 (win-loss) mark.
“We just got to play the kind of defense we’ve been playing as what we showed against Alaska and Globalport. We’ve been holding teams below 80 points and the field goal shooting below, too,” Cortez said.
The Air21 point guard’s analysis of the Dunigan-Bowles showdown may also be a huge call for his teammates to step up.
Cortez, Mark Isip, and Wynne Arboleda had 12 points apiece in the 106-94 win over Globalport, but no local player finished in double figures in the victory over Alaska.
James Yap, on the other hand, has consistently delivered for San Mig Coffee the last two games, finishing with 21 and 19, while Mark Pingris, Joe Devance and the rest of the Mixers had been solid in making significant contributions.
The Mixers won 76-71 over Meralco last week to even their card at 4-4 and grab a share of fourth place with idle Talk ’N Text and the Bolts.
Now they hope to sustain their form as San Mig Coffee coach Tim Cone will be looking to find ways to contain if not stop the bull-strong Dunigan.
The 6-foot-9 Air21 reinforcement was a monster inside and a good decoy as well, firing 25 points, grabbing 14 rebounds, while adding two of his game-high five blocks in the crucial stretch of the fourth period of their upset win over the Aces.
“He’s (Dunigan) hard to stop,” said Cone, who is expected to ask Best Import Bowles and reliable big man Pingris to put the body on the power-playing Air21 import.
Dunigan has been the Express’ go-to-guy this conference, averaging 26.5 points to go along with 16 rebounds, 2.2 assists, and 2.3 blocks in 43.5 minutes per contest.
Bowles, on the other hand, norms 20.5 points, 14.5 rebounds ,and 2.0 blocks in 37.6 minutes.