Air 21's Asi Taulava (L) is pressured by San Miguel Beermen's Kevin Jones (R). Photo by Mark Cristino for ABS-CBNnews.com
MANILA, Philippines – Veteran big man Asi Taulava offered young center June Mar Fajardo a few words of comfort after Taulava's Air21 Express upset Fajardo and the San Miguel Beermen in the PBA Commissioners Cup quarter-finals.
Air21 overcame a twice-to-beat disadvantage against SMB, with Taulava playing a big role in the do-or-die second game last Friday.
The 41-year-old center scored the buzzer-beating putback that sent the game into a first overtime, then scored five points in the second extension to lift his team to a 101-95 win.
Fajardo could do nothing but sit on the bench, while Taulava had his way inside the paint, having fouled out in regulation.
“We’re just lucky and fortunate,” said Taulava in a report by PBA.ph. “We just capitalized when June Mar fouled out. We just waited, and the breaks of the game went our way.”
Taulava, who hugged Fajardo after the final buzzer sounded, only had good words to say about the younger player.
“I told him (Fajardo) that the PBA is his,” Taulava said. “That’s being straight-forward and honest. Once they (San Miguel Beer) get things clicking, playing together, staying together, he’s going to dominate.”
He readily admitted having trouble defending the taller Fajardo. “Boy, that boy is heavy,” Taulava said.
“I can feel my lower back and my hamstring throughout the game. I was trying to find ways to get him in foul trouble, and he fouled out of the game. But other than that, he was so dominant,” he added.
Taulava also commended the Beermen, who finished with a 7-2 record in the elimination but could not make good use of their twice-to-beat advantage.
“I have great respect for the San Miguel Beermen,” Taulava said. “That’s a great bunch of guys that they have.”
“They’re so loaded, and once they figure out how to play together, basketball becomes so easy – especially having the most dominant big man right now with June Mar,” he added.
Air21 will play the San Mig Super Coffee Mixers in the semi-finals, with Game 1 of the best-of-five series scheduled for Tuesday.