2013 PBA Commissioner’s Cup Roundup: March 20-22, 2013

The race for the six Commish Cup Playoff spots heated up this past week with big wins from middling teams. An ROS win and a Petron loss put both teams right behind league-leading Alaska, while Ws by TNT, Air21, and Ginebra put them in prime spots to advance to the next round.

In the Wednesday curtain-raiser, Rain or Shine beat Barako Bull,103-93. Bruno Sundov and Paul Lee proved to be a lethal pair, combining for 47 points including shooting 4-of-6 from beyond the arc. Sundov also grabbed 11 rebounds, while Lee added 6 assists and 2 steals. Gilas Pilipinas sniper Jeff Chan, however, continued to fire mostly blanks in his second game back from injury. The former FEU standout shot just 3-of-12 from the floor including 2-of-6 from the rainbow country. Lee won't be able to wax hot every game, so Chan should rediscover his stroke sooner rather than later.

Meanwhile, after a hot start to the conference, it seems the law of averages has caught up with Josh Urbiztondo, who made just a single field goal out of ten attempts. The Fil-Am playmaker has shot only 26% (9-of-34) from the floor in Barako's last three outings.

In the second game, the AIR21 Express defeated the San Mig Coffee Mixers, 87-82, as Mike Dunigan continued his brilliant play. He has registered double-doubles in all but one of his Commish Cup games, and this one was easily one of the best. The former Oregon Duck produced 25 points and 20 rebounds to help Air21 tie their victims for a share of sixth spot. This is the fifth game Dunigan has scored at least 15 points and grabbed at least 19 rebounds. I don't know about you, but I'm calling him Magic Mike.

Mike Dunigan's brilliant play continues to
help the Express climb the standings.

SMC felt the absence of star forward Joe Devance, who has been playing really well this conference. The San Mig Coffee frontline locals, all six of them, scored a total of only 11 points and grabbed just 14 boards. In contrast, Air21's Niño Cañaleta, Mark Isip, and Bitoy Omolon combined for 25 points on top of 9 rebounds. I am loving, though, how PJ Simon continues to be perhaps the most consistently awesome backcourt guy on the SMC roster despite the fact he goes relatively under-the-radar. 20 points on 8-of-14 FG shooting? That's efficiency at its finest. In the meantime, his more ballyhooed, but currently embattled, teammate, James Yap, connected on just 6-of-19 attempts.

In yesterday’s opener, Talk N Text overcame Petron in overtime, 93-85. Donnell Harvey and Larry Fonacier combined for 56 points to lead TNT to its fifth win while pulling the Boosters down to a tie with ROS. Harvey also grabbed 17 rebounds, while Fonacier punched three treys.

The Boosters scored ZERO points in the OT. First time ever in PBA history (or recent memory) I think. Their new import, Rodney White, shot 5-o-f-17 from the field to finish with only 12 points. He also grabbed just 7 rebounds and turned the ball over 4 times. He played 31 minutes. Certainly not the debut the Boosters were hoping for.

In the nightcap, the Bgy. Ginebra Gin Kings won over the Meralco Bolts, 84-81. What was the most interesting thing that happened here? Was it Chris Ross coming back into the game to lead a roaring Meralco fightback? Nope. Was it the combined production of 54 points and 43 rebounds by opposing imports Vernon Macklin and Eric Dawson? Not even. It was Ginebra coahc Alfrancis Chua's comment after the Kings' escape, “Actually, kung nakahabol sila at natalo kami, kasalanan namin yun. LAY-UP NA, NILALANDI PA." Wow. Who thinks of stuff like that?

Ginebra had to withstand a mighty Meralco comeback principally  because of Macklin shooting 5-of-15 from the free throw line. Congratulations, Vernon, for graduating from the Richard Del Rosario (or Dwight Howard?) School of Free Throw Shooting. By the time the Bolts realized they should be playing to win, however, it was just a tad too late. They put themselves behind by 21 points thanks mainly to awful rebounding and even more awful field goal shooting. By the game's end, Meralco was -12 in rebounds and -15% in FG%.

Game Recaps:

Paul Lee had his finest game of the Commissioner’s Cup to help the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters snap a two-game losing skid with a 103-93 victory over Barako Bull Wednesday at Cuneta Astrodome in Pasay City.

Lee posted 20 points, four rebounds, six assists, and two steals, breaking out of a mini-slump to help Rain or Shine improve its win-loss record to 6-3. Bruno Sundov added 27 points and 11 rebounds for the Elasto Painters.

“We were able to make it a high scoring ball game. We want an uptempo game and that’s one thing that worked for us. That’s the way we like it,” said Rain or Shine coach Yeng Guiao, whose squad was coming off a disappointing loss to a Petron squad that played without an import last Saturday.

The Elasto Painters built a 15-point lead in the second quarter, 40-25, courtesy of a three-pointer by Jeff Chan who played in just his second game back after a hand injury. Barako Bull cut the deficit to just seven points at halftime, 46-39, to stay within striking distance.

Rain or Shine kept Barako Bull at bay for most of the second half, before the Energy Colas moved within just three points, 72-69, on a three-pointer by Mark Macapagal.

But Chris Tiu answered with a three-pointer of his own to touch off a 13-5 run as Rain or Shine built another double-digit lead that Barako Bull could no longer overcome.

“We shot the ball a lot better today, we were really looking for Jeff (Chan), Paul (Lee), and our big men to get their usual percentages tom make things easier for Sundov,” added Guiao.

“The key is we shot the ball pretty well and by doing so, Bruno gets more comfortable to operate, that’s what happened in this game.”

Barako Bull lost its fifth straight game to see its record drop to 3-6.

ROS 103 – Sundov 27, Lee 20, Quinahan 11, Chan 10, Norwood 8, Rodriguez 6, Tiu 5, Belga 5, Cruz 4, Ibanes 4, Matias 2, Tang 1, Arana 0.
BAR 93 – Borck 23, Seigle 20, Intal 17, Maliksi 12, Pennisi 10, Urbiztondo 3, Macapagal 3, Kramer 2, Allado 2, Villanueva 1, Anthony 0, Cruz 0.
QS: 19-18, 46-39, 70-66, 103-93

JC Intal gets bottled up by Jireh Ibañes.

Bruno Sundov tests the tight D of Evan Brock.

AIR21 over SAN MIG COFFEE, 87-82
Franz Pumaren and his Air 21 Express are flying high.

The Express extended their winning streak to three games, matching the longest streak in franchise history, following an 87-82 triumph over the San Mig Coffee Mixers on Wednesday’s PBA Commissioner’s Cup game at the Cuneta Astrodome.

Michael Dunigan had 25 points and 20 rebounds on top of two blocks, stressing his case as a strong candidate for the tournament’s Best Import award.

Dunigan was able to stamp his class against the reigning titlist, Denzel Bowles, who posted 24 points and 12 rebounds, but did not get enough support from the rest of the Mixers.

“I’m elated beating San Mig Coffee. I’m speechless,” said Pumaren, whose team defeated San Mig Coffee for the first time since debuting last season as the Shopinas.com Clickers.

“We have to give it to our players because they really played well. They played smart.”

Pumaren praised his team’s defense against the defending champions, who had won four of five games heading into the matchup.

“I think we’re very underrated in terms of playing defense, tonight, we showed, how to play great defense. We were able to survive in the PBA by playing together,” said Pumaren.

The Express held the Mixers to just 13 points in the second period, limiting the team’s big guns — Bowles, James Yap, and Peter June Simon — to just a basket apiece in that crucial stretch.

But Air 21 squandered a 13-point lead in the third period, allowing the Mixers to come to within three points, 65-62, following a 7-2 run anchored on Simon’s jumper with still 10:25 left in the match.

The Express turned to defense again down the stretch, holding their rivals without a basket over a two-minute stretch. A bank shot from Dunigan at the 2:13 mark proved to be the decisive blow for Air 21, which posted a 79-68 lead.

The Mixers played without point-forward Joe Devance, whose hurt his knee in their last game against Meralco.

Without Devance, San Mig Coffee’s frontline rotation was visibly affected.

“They missed Deviance. They were not expecting him to get hurt. They’ve been relying on him a lot,” said Pumaren.

AIR 87 – Dunigan 25, Cortez 13, Canaleta 11, Arboleda 10, Isip 7, Omolon 7, Wilson 4, Menor 4, Custodio 4, Baclao 2, Sena 0, Ritualo 0.
SMC 82 – Bowles 24, Simon 20, Yap 17, Barroca 10, Reavis 5, De Ocampo 4, Gonzales 2, Mallari 0, Gaco 0, Najorda 0, Pingris 0.
QS: 15-18; 35-31; 63-55; 87-82.

Mike Cortez challenges SMC's Mark Barroca.

TALK N TEXT over PETRON, 93-85
Mighty Mouse came to save the day.

Jimmy Alapag hit a three-pointer with 2.7 seconds left to send the game into overtime, before Talk ‘N Text held Petron scoreless in the extra period to hack out a 93-85 victory Friday night at the SMART-Araneta Coliseum.

“It’s gotta be one of the best ones I’ve had in the PBA,” said an exhausted Talk ‘N Text coach Norman Black after the game.

Alapag’s big shot capped a thrilling Tropang Texters comeback in regulation. Talk ‘N Text was still down by six points late in the game, 85-79, before Ranidel De Ocampo hit a three-pointer to cut the deficit to just three points with 25.8 seconds left.

Arwind Santos missed both free throws in the ensuing play, giving Talk ‘N Text a shot at the equalizer. Petron almost came up with the possession after a loose ball in the next play, but Ronald Tubid was forced into a jump ball by Talk ‘N Text import Donnell Harvey.

The Tropang Texters recovered the loose ball and set up Alapag, who faked off Alex Cabagnot for a 25-foot shot that hit nothing but net.

Talk ‘N Text finished the job in overtime, going on an 8-0 run to end the game. The Boosters missed all six of their attempts from the field in the extra period while also committing three turnovers.

Harvey carried the Tropang Texters for most of the contest, posting 38 points and 17 rebounds in his finest game this season.

“My locals are still struggling,” said Black. “We needed a game were our import carried us.”

Petron import Rodney White had a quiet debut for the Boosters, scoring just 12 points on 5-of-17 shooting from the field.

TNT 93 – Harvey 38, Fonacier 18, Alapag 10, Williams 7, De Ocampo 7, Castro 6, Dillinger 3, Al-Hussaini 2, Alvarez 2, Aban 0, Carey 0.
PET 85 – Lassiter 18, Santos 14, Cabagnot 14, Fajardo 13, White 12, Washington 6, Lanete 4, Yeo 4, Tubid 0, Pena 0.
QS: 17-18, 33-36, 53-56, 93-85

Rodney White had a terrible debut for Petron.

Donnell Harvey is caught with his pants down.

Jayson Castro tries to turn the corner against
fellow NT hopeful, June Mar Fajardo.

Barangay Ginebra San Miguel booked its third straight Commissioner’s Cup win, but coach Alfrancis Chua wasn’t exactly happy with the victory.

The Gin Kings nearly squandered a 21-point lead before pulling out an 84-81 triumph over the Meralco Bolts Friday night at the SMART-Araneta Coliseum.

“Actually, kung nakahabol sila at natalo kami, kasalanan namin yun. Layup na, nilalandi pa,” said Ginebra coach Alfrancis Chua.

Ginebra led 37-16 in the second quarter, and was still up by nine points, 81-72, at the two-minute mark of the game.

But a furious 9-2 run capped by a Chris Ross three-pointer with 25.6 seconds left cut the Meralco deficit to just two points, 83-81.

The Bolts sent LA Tenorio to free throw line, where the Ginebra court general split his free throws to give Meralco one final shot.

But Ross could not hit his attempt at the game-tying basket, allowing Ginebra to escape with the win.

Meralco came back in part by using an unusual tactic, sending Ginebra import Vernon Macklin to the free throw line intentionally in the fourth quarter.

But Chua refused to sub out his import, who shot just 5-of-15 from the line.

“I told him mananalo kami, matatalo kami dahil sa ‘yo,” said Chua, who drew 23 points, 22 rebounds, and five assists from his reinforcement.

Ginebra had to hack out the victory despite missing Mark Caguioa, who injured his knee with less than three minutes left in the game. Caguioa scored 21 points, but did not return after being subbed out.

GIN 84 – Macklin 23, Caguioa 21, Ellis 11, Labagala 8, Hatfield 7, Tenorio 6, Mamaril 3, Helterbrand 3, Baracael 2, Jensen 0, Wilson 0, Raymundo 0.
MER 81 – Dawson 31, Hodge 18, Buenafe 8, Hugnatan 6, Salvacion 6, Ross 5, Cardona 5, Manuel 2, Vanlandingham 0, Timberlake 0, Reyes 0, Artadi 0.
QS: 22-10, 42-29, 64-57, 84-81

Cliff Hodge and the Bolts fell flat early against Ginebra.

We can always count on coach Alfrancis Chua for
some memorable quotes.

Willie Wilson and the Gin Kings had to squirm past
the persistent Bolts.

Game recaps and images are from InterAKTV (writing credit to Rey Joble; photo credit to Nuki Sabio, Paolo Papa, and Paul Ryan Tan).
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