MANILA, Philippines – If 1-0 was nothing, 2-0 is definitely teetering on disaster.
The Rain or Shine Elasto Painters managed to steal victory despite trailing for most of the game to extend their win streak to 10 and, more importantly, grab a 2-0 lead over the Petron Blaze Boosters, 103-94, in their semifinal series in the PLDT Home DSL Philippine Cup on Wednesday, January 29 at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Rain or Shine played subpar basketball for most of the contest in comparison to their 48 minutes of consistency in Game 1. They were down by as much as 16 in the second quarter, 34-18, before they erased that lead and headed to halftime down by only 3, 49-46.
Petron pounded on them some more in the second half but Rain or Shine crept up quietly behind Petron in the final canto as they played their best quarter of the game.
The Painters outscored Petron in that period by a landslide disparity of 36-16. They returned to their fast and furious pace in the fourth after having only two fastbreak attempts and two points off of that in the first half. They upped those numbers to 10 attempts and 15 points, and added 17 turnover points to boot.
“We just carved out a hard win today,” head coach Yeng Guiao said. “For a while I thought it was a lost game but the guys did not give up. It’s a testament to the guys’ desire to win. It’s a testament to their mental toughness.”
Rain or Shine found themselves in trouble to start the fourth after Marcio Lassiter sank a triple to make it 85-72 at the 9:23 mark. But back-to-back three-pointers by Jeff Chan stirred things for Rain or Shine to cut the lead to 85-78.
But things truly turned around to favor the Painters at the 5:48 mark as Gabe Norwood, who had only two points and one assist in the first half, swished in a triple to make a 3-point game, 90-87.
Norwood, who eventually finished with 11 markers, 6 rebounds and 6 assists, stabilized things for Rain or Shine and facilitated crucial plays including finding rookie Raymond Almazan at the top of the key with 5 minutes left, which resulted in another triple that trickled in to make it 91-90.
Beau Belga then made a bucket to get the lead, 92-91, and Rain or Shine never looked back.
“They did a good job stopping our breaks,” Guiao admitted how that affected their game. “They did a good job slowing down the game. It’s a lot slower than the first game we played against them.”
He also took note of the physicality of the contest and how it played to their strengths.
“It was a physical game. They tried to play us physical. That’s really our game. It’s the way we want the game to be.”
Meanwhile, Petron made the right adjustments to hold Rain or Shine for 3 quarters. But they were unable to sustain it until the end as field goals began missing the mark for them in the crucial stretch of the fourth.
June Mar Fajardo was the key to getting the Boosters going early in the game as he scored 8 of his team’s first 10 points to pump fuel into their offense. But he lost that rhythm as the physicality got the better of him.
Guiao said it’s a matter of having the right mentality to be able to keep up with physical play.
“I think they were trying to play physical and June Mar really is, I think, the focal point of their offense. And we have to play physical ourselves so he’s going to get the brunt of the physicality. That’s a lot of physicality in the time that he’s inside.”
He added, “It’s more natural for us than it is for him.”
The 2012 first overall drafted pick still finished with 20 points and 9 rebounds but also registered 6 turnovers.
Guiao also gave the credit due to Almazan, who finished with 15 points and 5 rebounds, including the dagger hook shot that made it 100-94 with 28.7 seconds remaining.
“He played like a veteran. Raymond made the big shots, big rebounds, big stops. He looked like he was 250 pounds. He did it when it counted–in the semifinals. That’s his championship experience from his Letran days.
With the longest streak of the conference and a 2-0 lead in the semis, Guiao and his team have no plans of letting up.
“2-0 is a good place to be at this point. But we cannot celebrate. We still need to win 2 more.”
Rain or Shine 103: Chan 20, Almazan 15, Lee 15, Belga 11, Norwood 11, Arana 8, Tang 5, Quinahan 4, Cruz 4, Nuyles 4, Rodriguez 4, Teng 2, Tiu 0, Ibanes 0.
Petron 94: Fajardo 20, Cabagnot 17, Lassiter 14, Santos 12, Lutz 7, Kramer 6, Hubalde 6, Ross 6, Tubid 4, Taha 2.
Quarters: 18-32, 46-49, 67-78, 103-94