JAMES Yap exploded for nine of San Mig Super Coffee’s last 13 points in the final period to complete the Mixers’ fightback from a 17-point deficit en route to a 104-101 win against Rain or Shine and draw first blood in the PBA Governors Cup Finals on Tuesday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Yap, who scored only four points in the first half, took over in the final three minutes. The two-time league MVP scored a pair of free throws, hit a huge three-point shot before capping his fiery endgame shooting with a cold-blooded 12-footer to give San Mig a 101-98 lead with 16.6 seconds to go.
But the Elasto Painters refused to simply roll and die.
After Marqus Blakely’s pair of foul shots following Gabe Norwood’s three-point miss, Arizona Reid drew a foul from beyond the arc off Peter June Simon’s challenge.
Reid drained all three free throws to cut the Mixers’ lead to just 103-101 with 4.7 seconds left.
A small window of opportunity opened a second later when Simon, who was fouled by Jeff Chan to stop the clock, split his foul shots, giving the Elasto Painters one last chance at sending the game into overtime with a three-point basket.
Coming off a Rain or Shine timeout, Paul Lee went for a last-second three-point attempt and was apparently bumped by San Mig forward Marc Pingris, but no foul was called and the Mixers took a 1-0 series lead.
“It’s always tough when the game is decided in a call like that,” San Mig coach Tim Cone said after the series-opener.
Cone commended his second unit, particularly Allein Maliksi, Ian Sangalang and Rafi Reavis for holding the fort while Mixers starters led by Yap, Simon and Pingris rested during the first six minutes of the fourth period.
Maliksi scored all 10 of his points in the second half, providing the spark that San Mig needed after digging a huge 17-point hole for itself midway through the third period.
Cone, however, expressed dismay over the team’s lack of energy to start the best-of-five title series, allowing Rain or Shine to pump in 11 three-point shots during the first three quarters.
“The bottom line is we didn’t play a good first half. We came out remarkably flat in a championship series,” said Cone even as the Mixers moved within two wins of a grand slam.
“But as it is, the character of this team showed and they did a good job collectively,” he added.
Simon led the Mixers with 18 points and seven rebounds, while Pingris and Yap each added 14.
Blakely had a quiet 13 points, but added 14 rebounds and issued three assists.
Reid led the Elasto Painters with 35 points and 12 rebounds, while Chan added 17.
Game Two is set on Thursday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
San Mig 104 - Simon 18, Pingris 14, Yap 14, Blakely 13, Barroca 11, Maliksi 10, Devance 10, Sangalang 7, Reavis 5, Melton 2, Mallari 0.
Rain or Shine 101 - Reid 35, Chan 17, Lee 12, Belga 11, Norwood 7, Almazan 6, Arana 5, Cruz 2, Tiu 2, Nuyles 2, Ibanes 2, Rodriguez 0.
Quarterscores: 24-29, 46-57, 71-78, 104-101