Except for Alaska, three other teams that figured in the semifinals of the recent PBA Philippine Cup dropped their respective Commissioner’s Cup-opening games over the weekend.
Alaska hacked out a pulse-pounding 83-81 win over Philippine Cup runner-up Rain or Shine behind the buzzer-beating bank shot by Cyrus Baguio on Saturday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
On the other hand, Globalport pulled off a gigantic 94-92 upset win against tournament favorite Petron Blaze with returning big man Japeth Aguilar scoring 19 points, grabbing nine rebounds and adding three blocks on the way to earning the Best Player of the game award.
The reigning three-time Philippine champion Talk ‘N Text, meanwhile, suffered a shocking 92-99 defeat to sister team Meralco, while Barako Bull now sits atop the leader board following back-to-back wins against San Mig Coffee (79-75) and Globalport on Sunday, 98-88 in overtime.
Air21 and Barangay Ginebra, the last PBA teams to debut in the Commissioner’s Cup, were the featured game on Sunday with the Express riding on the broad shoulders of 6’9″ reinforcement Michael Dunigan. The hulking Dunigan peppered the Gin Kings with jump hooks, dunks, lay-ups while providing a dominant presence Air21 sorely lacked the past conference.
Among the 10 imports that debuted, so far, Eric Dawson of Meralco and Dunigan stood out due to their game-changing performances in the four-day-old 2013 Commissioner’s Cup.
The 6’10” Dawson, who was named the 2012 NBA D-League Impact Player of the Year, appears to be the yardstick for this tournament. The Kevin Durant-look-alike Meralco import fired 16 of his 37 points in a dominating fourth quarter performance to tow the Bolts against the still out-of-condition and undermanned Tropang Texters. He also hauled down 19 boards and added four blocks in a performance that immediately netted him the Best Player of the Game citation.
Dunigan was also a force to reckon with for the Express after out dueling Barangay Ginebra counterpart Herbert Hill. The Air21 import led the Express with 26 points, 19 rebounds and five blocks, imposing his will just when the Gin Kings were trying to make a serious fourth quarter rally.
While one or two games are not enough gauge to see how a team will fair for the rest of the import-laced conference, at least, what’s evident is that a ball club with a strong import can easily plug in the weakness it has on its local roster.
Air21 coach Franz Pumaren said his team admittedly doesn’t have any recognized superstars in the roster right now, but Dunigan’s do-it-all against the Gin Kings make them look good.
“Looking at the overall picture, man to man, we’re the weakest I think in terms of the locals. Look at other teams, they upgraded on their lineup. I think Michael is a big factor, he gave us intimidation underneath. When we needed to score, he gets it done,” said Pumaren.