San Mig Coffee (SMC) Mixers rallied from 17 points down in the third quarter to pull off a 104-101 victory over Rain or Shine (ROS) Elastopainters in the first game of their best-of-five championship series Tuesday night.
ROS was ahead for almost the entire game except for a brief period in the first quarter. The Elastopainters hanged on to at least a one-point lead until the final minute of the game.
Then came SMC superstar James Yap who scored four of his team’s last 13 points, including a three pointer that put the Mixers in the lead for good with just 57.8 seconds left in the game. He scored 14 points in all.
Another jumper and two free throws from import Marqus Blakely pushed the lead to five, 103-98, with just 8.1 seconds left in the match. Game over, right?
But just when the Mixers and their legions of fans are already celebrating the imminent victory, things got a little interesting. Coming from a time out, ROS import Arizona Reid got the ball off an inbound pass.
For some inexplicable reason, Mixers veteran Peter June Simon fouled Reid. The latter was awarded three free throws which he all made.
With the score standing at 103-101 and with just 3.6 ticks left, ROS guard Jeff Chan fouled Simon. However, Simon could only score one-of-two from the charity lane.
ROS head coach Yeng Guiao devised a play for a three-point shot during his final time out. The ball ultimately went to former rookie of the year Paul Lee, with ace defender Marc Pingris guarding him.
Pingris was unrelenting in his defense against Lee, who tried his best to make a desperation three-pointer. No defensive foul was called, and the Elastopainters was obviously aghast. Watch the sequence below (forward to the 39:00 mark).
Analyst Perry Martinez said that Pingris should have been called for a blocking foul following the so-called “principle of verticality.” In that scenario, Lee should have been awarded three charity shots that could have sent the game into overtime.
According to one website, even with this principle, the difference between an offensive foul and a blocking foul varies greatly depending on the referee’s perspective.
The Mixers are now just two wins away from achieving their fourth straight title and a rare season grand slam. The Filipino Scribe stands by its prediction that the Mixers will win the title in four games.
Game 2 is on Thursday at the SMART Araneta Coliseum.
(Postscript: The Mixers narrowly avoided an endgame collapse comparable to what happened to San Antonio Spurs’ Game 6 vs the Miami Heat in last year’s NBA finals.
As harsh as it may sound, this can be blamed to PJ Simon’ crucial blunders in two consecutive plays. First is his ill-advised foul on Reid. Then came his one missed free throw. Without those, the Mixers could have easily won by five or more points.)