Rampaging Express go for 2-0 lead
AIR21 shoots for a commanding 2-0 lead against San Mig Coffee today, hoping to stay unbeaten in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup playoffs where the Express have so far been the surprise package of the tournament.
Game time is 8 p.m. at Smart Araneta Coliseum in Cubao with the Express trying to duplicate a 103-100 upset win pounded out Tuesday night at Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay.
That was the third straight win in this phase for the Express, who got this far by bundling out No. 2 seed San Miguel Beer in two straight games.
After humbling the Beermen, there were very few who gave the Express a chance against the Mixers, the champions the last two conferences who can effectively pocket a Grand Slam with another title run here.
And it is that string of championships that makes Air21 coach Franz Pumaren feel a little confident the rest of this series.
“Let’s face it, San Mig Coffee is already tired because of those two championships,” Pumaren said, referring to the short breaks the Mixers have gotten in between tournaments.
“But they are rich in tradition and they have championship pedigree,” he added.
Asi Taulava and Sean Anthony, together with import Wesley Witherspoon, are the biggest reasons why the Express are on a run.
Anthony is averaging close to 24 points a game in the playoffs and Taulava is continuing to play like an upstart, willing his 41-year-old legs to extended minutes full of hustle and leadership.
Meanwhile, the league yesterday suspended three game officials who worked Games 1 of the Talk ‘N Text-Rain or Shine and Air21-San Mig Coffee series.
There were two glaring errors on the part of the officials, who missed calling an obvious travelling violation on Air21’s Asi Taulava with just over a minute left that resulted in a seven-point lead by the Express.
Jimmy Alapag also had his left foot out of bounds when he saved a crucial possession for the Tropang Texters against the Elasto Painters in a 91-85 Game 1 win, a glaring error that almost led to a bench-clearing incident involving Talk ‘N Text import Richard Howell and Rain or Shine coach Yeng Guiao.
Guiao was fined P30,000 for giving Howell a tap in the mid-section, even as Cliff Hodge of Meralco, which was ousted by the Painters a couple of days ago, was also fined P20,000 for a flagrant foul 2 on Jeff Chan.
It was the second fine for both Guiao and Hodge, who also had a heated confrontation after Game 2 of their quarterfinal series.