SAN Mig Coffee inched closer to a twice-to-beat advantage in the quarterfinals, turning to its defense to stave off a late collapse against Rain or Shine, 93-92, on Sunday in the PBA Philippine Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
PJ Simon had 24 points off the bench while Joe Devance added 20 for the Mixers, who improved to 9-3 (win-loss) and pulled away from Rain or Shine (8-5) in a veritable two-horse race for the No. 2 position behind runaway leader Talk 'N Text and the twice-to-beat incentive that goes with it.
The win did not come easy, though, for the Mixers, who had to endure anxious moments in the endgame when three Jeff Chan freethrows, 92-93, and a turnover off the ensuing inbound by Simon gave the Elasto Painters the opportunity to steal the game in the final 9.1 seconds.
But San Mig turned to its vaunted defense to preserve the victory, stopping consecutive offensive sets by Rain or Shine as Chan was foiled on a drive and Beau Belga was forced to an air ball on a jumper.
“I keep telling my team that we are a defensive team first so we are going to rely on defense… We were able to come up with the stops in the last nine seconds,” said San Mig Coffee coach Tim Cone.
San Mig now has two chances of wrapping up the twice-to-beat advantage with wins against either also-ran Globalport on Friday, or against Meralco on Sunday.
Rain or Shine staged a late comeback with Chris Tiu’s three-point play, and triples by Belga and Chan slicing the gap to three points with one minute and 16 seconds in the game.
San Mig never trailed in the game as Simon had eight points each in the first and third quarters to preserve a 69-60 lead for the Mixers entering the final quarter.
The Mixers led by 12 points, 80-68, on two free throws by Simon.
San Mig Coffee (93) – Simon 24, Devance 20, De Ocampo 14, Pingris 10, Yap 9, Villanueva 8, Barroca 3, Reavis 3, Ramos 2, Intal 0, Gonzales 0.
Rain or Shine (92) – Chan 21, Matias 18, Belga 13, Tiu 12, Arana 12, Cruz 7, Norwood 4, Rodriguez 3, Quinahan 2, Tang 0.
Quarterscores: 25-17, 47-37, 69-60, 93-92.