OPENING-day losers San Mig Coffee and Air21 try to barge into the win column when they clash in a Saturday doubleheader of the PBA Governors Cup at the Ynares Center in Antipolo.
The Mixers will be missing the services of power forward Marc Pingris for the second straight game but are going to unveil new acquisition Allein Maliksi in the 6 p.m. match against the Express.
Maliksi was acquired Friday from Barako Bull in exchange for Wesley Gonzales, Chris Pacana and a draft pick. The former PBA D-League MVP from University of Santo Tomas is expected to act as back-up to star James Yap.
With Yap struggling with his shooting and Pingris currently on a week-long break following his heroic stint with Gilas Pilipinas, the Mixers suffered a fourth quarter meltdown that led to their 75-79 loss to reigning champion Rain or Shine E-Painters during the opener of the season-ending meet on Wednesday.
But even with the absence of Pingris, the Mixers are looking to redeem themselves against the Express.
“Each game is important as the next so we just need to be ready for Air21, since they are also just coming from a loss. They want to come back (with a win),” said San Mig import Marqus Blakely, well aware of the short, single-round format of the eliminations.
San Mig’s offense was out of sync against the E-Painters, shooting just 33.3 percent in the game.
A big let-down definitely was Yap, the league’s two-time MVP.
While his nagging back problems are already behind him after undergoing a series of therapy sessions in Europe during the season break, the 6-foot-2 Yap fired blanks all night against Rain or Shine to finish the game with eight points on a disappointing 1-of-14 shooting.
Meantime, Air21 import Zach Graham said the Express need to be more consistent with their defense in order to get their offense going.
“We just need to pick up our defense a little bit. I think we can only get better and better,” said Graham, who scored 31 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in Air21’s 95-101 loss to Globalport also on Wednesday.
“We need to take advantage of every opportunity,” said the import, back for his second tour of duty with Air21.
Two teams will take the early vacation after the single-round robin, nine-game compact format. The top four teams then earn twice-to-beat advantages against the teams seeded fifth to eighth in the quarterfinals.
Winners in the quarterfinals will advance to the best-of-five semifinal series with the last two survivors facing each other in a best-of-seven championship series.