DENZEL Bowles nailed a jumper from the top of the key with 6.8 seconds remaining as San Mig Coffee hammered out a thrilling 71-69 victory over top seed Alaska to grab a 1-0 lead in their Cebuana Lhuillier PBA Commissioner’s Cup semifinal showdown at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Bowles actually scored six straight points in the final 1:11 of the match before the Mixers’ defense sealed the victory, pressuring the Aces into a botched final play.
“No matter what happens, we will go to [Bowles],” Mixers star James Yap said in Filipino. “You saw what he did for us last year [when we won the title].”
“It was a magnificent battle,” said San Mig coach Tim Cone, who continued his mastery over his former team, which hasn’t beaten him since his transfer to the Mixers. “Denzel is a big game, big moment guy and he’s been special for us.”
Alaska rode an 11-5 run in the fourth to push San Mig behind, 59-64 going into the final four minutes but the Mixers fought back to set up the thrilling ending.
Marc Pingris scored four points on hard cuts to the basket while Yap added two free throws as the Mixers took the lead, 65-64, 1:35 to play.
The Aces went ahead again on a JV Casio triple, but that was when Bowles took charge. He hit back-to-back baskets that sandwiched a miss by Alaska import Rob Dozier to give San Mig a 69-67 edge.
Calvin Abueva tied the game anew, capping three straight offensive rebounds by Alaska with a putback that knotted the count at 69, setting the floor for Bowles’ game winner.
Meanwhile, with momentum on its side, Barangay Ginebra shoots for a commanding 2-0 lead against Talk ‘N Text today when their half of the semifinal best-of-five series resumes also at the Big Dome.
Game time is 6:15 p.m. with the Gin Kings hoping to follow up on an impressive 104-81 Game 1 conquest of the Tropang Texters, who showed up flat for the series opener and took a beating they will not forget easily.
Vernon Macklin was the spark of the Game 1 rout for the Kings, who caught the Texters flatfooted to take leads of as many as 29 points and wrest psychological edge in the series.
Talk ‘N Text will also miss a key cog in Jared Dillinger, one of the most energetic players in its lineup, who will be out for an unspecified time after being involved in a vehicular accident at 3 a.m. yesterday.
Talk ‘N Text officials refused to answer queries about the incident, but the Inquirer learned that the entire team will be visiting Dillinger in the hospital after tonight’s game.
Jerome Jordan, the former New York Knick in the NBA, needs to come out a lot better today if the Texters hope to avoid a 0-2 hole.
The 7-foot import has not dominated in these playoffs despite his great credentials, and coach Norman Black is hoping that Jordan “plays better for us to have a chance.”
Though Jordan finished with 21 points and eight rebounds in Game 1—his best performance in the playoffs—he obviously couldn’t fire up his local teammates the way Macklin does for the Kings.
“We must play with a sense of urgency,” Black said. “Matching Ginebra’s energy and intensity on defense will be the key.”
SAN MIG COFFEE 71—Simon 15, Barroca 13, Bowles 12, Yap 10, Devance 6, Gonzales 5, Pingris 5, Reavis 2, De Ocampo 2, Mallari 1, Najorda 0.
ALASKA 69—Dozier 21, Abueva 9, Hontiveros 8, Thoss 7, Baguio 7, Jazul 6, Casio 6, Espinas 5, Dela Cruz 0, Belasco 0.
Quarters: 7-11, 24-21, 50-48, 71-69