JAMES Mays scored 25 points and grabbed 23 rebounds on the first day of May as San Mig Coffee successfully protected a 20-point lead to beat Air21, 82-75, on Thursday and level their PBA Commissioner’s Cup semifinal series at one game apiece.
Mays started a 19-3 finish to the second quarter to help the Mixers break a 31-31 deadlock and open leads as big as 77-57 early in the fourth quarter - a margin big enough to cushion another brave Air21 fightback in the endgame at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
San Mig Coffee coach Tim Cone emphasized the team’s effort on defense which was he felt was notably absent in the Mixers' 100-103 defeat in Game One, holding the seventh-seeded Express 28 points below their output on Tuesday.
“We got back to our identity tonight,” said Cone. “We are, first and foremost, a defensive team. We gave up a hundred points in Game One and that wasn’t our character."
“We got back to our tempo in which we like to play which is put the effort on defense,” he added.
Game Three of the best-of-five series is set Saturday at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
PJ Simon scored 13 points, while Justin Melton added 12 points for the Mixers, who also got 10 points from Joe Devance.
Asi Taulava had 21 points and 18 rebounds while Mark Cardona added 20 points for the Express, but import Wesley Witherspoon was held to eight points by San Mig's ruthless defense.
Sean Anthony, the spark plug of the Express’ playoff run, had eight points and was visibly hobbling in the second half due to what appears to be a left ankle injury.
After San Mig Coffee posted a 20-point lead, Air21 finally came alive with Anthony starting a 11-0 spurt to come within seven points at 77-70.
But Mays’ basket made it 82-73 with 3:20 left, touching off San Mig's late run.
San Mig Coffee (82) – Mays 25, Simon 13, Melton 12, Devance 10, Pingris 6, Barroca 6, Yap 5, Sangalang 4, Reavis 1, Mallari 0.
Air21 (75) – Taulava 21, Cardona 20, Yeo 9, Witherspoon 8, Anthony 8, Borboran 3, Villanueva 2, Ramos 2, Burtscher 2, Poligrates 0, Camson 0.
Quarterscores: 25-20; 50-34; 70-55; 82-75.