San Miguel leaned on CJ Perez's exploits off the bench to cruise past NLEX, 110-93, and register its first win of the 2021 PBA Philippine Cup Friday at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig.
Perez scored 13 of his 21 points in a pivotal second quarter for the Beermen, who pulled away from the Road Warriors right before halftime to recover from a dismal start to the conference last Sunday.
The 27-year-old combo guard made 7-of-13 shots and also added five rebounds and two assists off the pine for the Beermen, who are now tied at 1-1 with three other teams in the standings.
"I'm so thankful for the players and the way they played tonight. From start to finish, they played defense and focused on the game," head coach Leo Austria said in the post-game presser. "I think they realized the importance of this game. This is a very short tournament with 11 games, so we cannot afford to lose two games in a row."
Cabagnot, Santos and Fajardo dictated a strong SMB start by scoring 19 of the team's 32 points in the opening period to take a 10-point lead after the first 12 minutes.
The Beermen later turned up the heat behind Perez, who buried three triples in the second period for a San Miguel team that led by as many as 23, 61-38, right before halftime.
SMB slowed down a bit in the third, but that hardly mattered against an NLEX team that failed to threaten the lead in the final two quarters of play.
Alex Cabagnot finished with 17 points, while Mo Tautuaa also came up big off the bench and recorded 16 points on 7-for-11 shooting, nine rebounds, three assists, a steal and a block.
Marcio Lassiter threw in 14, and June Mar Fajardo tallied a double-double of 14 points, 10 rebounds and a block in just 24 minutes of play. Arwind Santos narrowly missed a double-double with nine points and 12 boards.
SMB. which led by as many as 24 late in the game, scored 52 points inside the paint on 56.5 percent shooting to offset a below-average shooting night from long range (29.4 percent). The team hit 43.5 percent of its shots overall.
"That's how basketball is supposed to be played. It's not just one man out there. We gotta come out and play," said Tautuaa. " It's good to see June Mar coming back. He was getting his point in the paint, and that really loosened it up for us, and from there we just kept the ball rolling."
NLEX, meanwhile, slid to 1-1 after this loss to San Miguel.
Kevin Alas led all Road Warriors with 20 points on 8-for-18 shooting along with six rebounds, six dimes, a steal and a block, while Kiefer Ravena contributed 16 points, seven assists, five boards and a block off the bench.
Raul Soyud posted 15 points on 7-for-10 shooting to go with seven boards and was the only other NLEX player to breach double-figures.
SAN MIGUEL 110 - Perez 21, Cabagnot 17, Tautuaa 16, Lassiter 14, Fajardo 14, Fajardo 9, Santos 9, Pessumal 10, Zamar 4, Ross 3, Gamalinda 2, Gotladera 0, Comboy 0.
NLEX 93 - Alas 20, Soyud 15, Ravena 16, Miranda 5, Quinahan 9, Paniamogan 8, Oftana 7, Semerad 5, Cruz 3, Trollano 3, Porter 2, McAloney 0, Ayonayon 0.
Quarters: 32-22, 61-44, 88-67, 110-93.
- SMB outrebounded NLEX 59-44.
- Road Warriors rookie Calvin Oftana was a team-high +6 in nine minutes and scored seven points on 3-for-5 shooting alongside five rebounds.
- San Miguel vs. NorthPort on July 25, Sunday, at 2:00 p.m.
- NLEX vs. Terrafirma on July 25, Sunday, at 7:00 p.m.