Pulling off two crucial stops inside the final nine seconds, San Mig Coffee held on to nip Rain or Shine, 93-92, last night at Smart Araneta Coliseum and all but seal the No. 2 seeding for the Mixers in the PBA Philippine Cup playoffs next week.
The Mixers avoided a repeat of a classic meltdown against the Elasto Painters in October and rose to 9-3 with still two games left in their schedule.
San Mig plays Globalport on Friday and then Meralco on Sunday to close out its elimination round sked, and coach Tim Cone said he needs just a split to seal the second twice-to-beat advantage that comes with landing second in the elims behind Talk ‘N Text.
Rain or Shine fought back from 13 points down early in the fourth quarter and was on the verge of pulling it out again before Jeff Chan and Beau Belga bungled their respective game-winning attempts.
The Painters, who wiped out an 18-point third quarter deficit last Oct. 10 to post an 80-79 decision of the Mixers in the first round, dropped to 8-5 but still remained in third spot.
Earlier, Barako Bull stopped Barangay Ginebra, 83-79, and improved to 4-9 in a tie with Air21 for the eighth and last spot in the playoffs.
But the Energy have the tougher final assignment compared to the Express as they still have to mix it up with Rain or Shine. The final Air21 foe is doormat Globalport on Wednesday.
Ginebra, which was held to its third-lowest output this conference, lost for the first time in six games and sixth in 13 matches overall. The Kings dropped to a fourth place tie with idle Alaska and Meralco.
Peter June Simon had a team-high 24 points for the Mixers, who took what looked like a safe 93-89 lead on a Rafi Reavis free throw with 16.3 seconds remaining.
But Jeff Chan fished a foul from Marc Pingris while attempting a triple, and the left-handed Rain or Shine gunner canned all three freebies with 11.5 seconds left before the Painters’ defense forced a passing error on Simon to regain possession.
“You have to give that (Rain of Shine) team a lot of credit because they kept coming back,” Cone said. “We made a couple of stops in the last nine seconds.”
Chan had 21 points for the Painters, who drew twin digits from four others.
Ronald Tubid scored 11 points in the fourth period, including a clutch running jumper off the glass with 1:35 remaining that gave the Energy enough breathing room, 76-59.
Tubid, the former Ginebra swingman, finished with 18 points that went with 10 rebounds and Leo Najorda chipped in 14, including eight in the fourth that came in the clutch.
Jay-Jay Helterbrand dropped 18 points to pace the Kings, who went into the final eight minutes of the contest after trailing by as many as 15 without leading gunslinger and reigning MVP Mark Caguioa.
Caguioa, whom management said is healthy, still managed to toss in 13 points in just 30 minutes.
“They played a hell of a defensive game,” Barako Bull coach Bong Ramos, who won for the first time in four games since taking over from Junel Baculi.
BARAKO 83—Tubid 18, Najorda 14, Yap 14, Cruz 10, Seigle 10, Kramer 6, Pennisi 6, Anthony 4, Ballesteros 1.
GINEBRA 79—Helterbrand 18, Caguioa 13, Ellis 12, Mamaril 12, Maierhofer 8, Tenorio 8, Raymundo 6, Wilson 2, Taha 0, Maliksi 0, Espiritu 0, Hatfield 0.
Quarters: 16-17, 29-26, 52-45, 83-79
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.
Quarters: 25-17, 47-37, 69-60, 93-92