DESPITE coming short of making the PBA Commissioner’s Cup Finals, Asi Taulava said the experience Air21 earned in its tightly-fought semifinals series against San Mig Coffee would do well for an Express team that played beyond expectations during the playoffs.
“I won‘t get mad at my teammates and blame anybody because nobody expected us to be here (in the semifinals),” Taulava said shortly after the Express wilted against a veteran San Mig squad, 99-83, in their winner-take-all match on Wednesday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum for the right to face top seed Talk `N Text in the title series.
Taulava admitted Air21 fell short against a far more superior San Mig franchise, but is convinced the lessons learned during the Express’ playoff run will augur well for the team’s campaign in the season-ending Governors Cup.
“We want to come back in the third conference strong. We don’t want to go back to being the mediocre team, because the fans are expecting a lot,” said the 41-year-old big man and former league MVP.
“We don’t want to let them (fans) down, and our coaches and management.”
The 6-foot-9 Fil-Tongan averaged 17.6 points and 12.2 rebounds in the semis, providing leadership and leading by example for an Air21 team that was playing in its first-ever semifinals appearance.
Taulava said the expected return of veteran big man Enrico Villanueva after recuperating from a knee injury and the comeback of playoff revelation Sean Anthony and tough guard Wynne Arboleda gives the Express a solid roster for the season-ending tournament.
“That’s what I’m excited about because you have all these guys, Rico, Sean back and Wynne back too, so we’re gonna be a complete lineup,” said a beaming Taulava.
The Express barged into the semifinals by beating second-seeded San Miguel Beermen twice in the quarterfinals in what was easily the biggest reversal in the playoff this conference.