San Mig, Rain or Shine battle for PBA Philippine Cup supremacy
MANILA, Philippines - And we're down to two.
After three months of intense, pulsating, and nail-biting matches in the elimination and knockout stages of the PLDT Home DSL PBA Philippine Cup, only two teams remain standing.
The San Mig Super Coffee Mixers and Rain or Shine Elasto Painters will slug it out in one last best-of-7 duel for the right to take home the much-coveted piece of PBA jewelry: the Philippine Cup title. The series kicks off tonight at Araneta Coliseum.
Can the hard-fighting San Mig crew take the crown?
Despite starting the season flat with a 1-5 card, the Mixers rose to avoid turning their campaign into a disappointment just as they did in last year’s Governors’ Cup.
They have fought gallantly and weathered struggles collectively, rising little by little. Coach Tim Cone's troops clawed back and finished fifth with a 7-7 record at the end of the elimination round.
In the quarterfinals, they went toe-to-toe against the history-seeking Talk 'N Text Tropang Texters, but San Mig emerged victorious after dethroning the defending three-peat champs, 2-1.
In the semifinals, the reigning Governors' Cup champions engaged in a titanic battle with Brgy. Ginebra San Miguel, going all 7 games before clearing the dust and advancing to the finals.
At 5th seed, they are trying to become the lowest-seeded team to win the All-Filipino crown since 2003.
Is Rain or Shine strong enough to win it all?
Coach Yeng Guiao's wards meanwhile had minimal problems throughout the conference, only losing close matches early in the tournament.
Once the Elasto Painters got into the groove, there's no stopping last year's Philippine Cup runner-up from roaring.
They dealt then undefeated Petron their first loss, 99-95 before marching towards a franchise-best 10-game winning streak which included key victories against Talk 'N Text, Globalport, and San Mig.
The 2nd-seeded Elasto Painters took the twice to beat incentive with an 11-3 card and knocked out Globalport in the quarterfinals before stunning Petron Blaze in the semifinals, 4-1 to book the first finals slot.
They've won 12 of their last 13 outings, with everyone logging significant contributions for Guiao.
Two teams shooting for glory are pitted in this exciting finals duel. Who will triumph? Here are some important keys in the championship.
Rain or Shine's bigs imposed a you-are-not-tough-enough mentality against Petron, shellacking June Mar Fajardo and the rest of Petron's big men in that encounter.
San Mig's Marc Pingris meanwhile led the frontline and limited Ginebra's twin towers of Japeth Aguilar and Greg Slaughter. Pingris wanted to dominate the entire Ginebra frontcourt all by himself; although it would be great to see him along with Rafi Reavis and Ian Sangalang do the same against the Painters' hardworking and bullstrong big men like Beau Belga, Jervy Cruz, and Larry Rodriguez who won't back down for sure.
The Elasto Painters boast Jeff Chan, who is arguably the best shooter in the Philippines right now. Almost everyone wearing an E-Painters uniform knows how to shoot from downtown and it has been an integral part of their weaponry.
But in Game 7 against Ginebra, James Yap and PJ Simon torched the hoops for 58 points on an impeccable 22 of 33 shooting. Yap alone knocked down 7 of 10 from beyond the arc. If they can keep shooting like that all series long, then Rain or Shine will have a tough time.
Nobody in Rain or Shine is averaging more than 24.1 minutes per outing, while everybody gets at least 10.6 minutes of playing time per game. On the other hand, San Mig's key players Mark Barroca, James Yap, PJ Simon and Marc Pingris are all spending more than 30 minutes per game on the floor.
While Tim Cone uses a tight rotation, his bench should deliver. This could be vital when the series goes the distance; which team will the fresher legs and more energy to finish out games? We will find out.
Rain or Shine stopped two key players in the Petron series: Chris Lutz and Alex Cabagnot. Lutz is avegaring more than 15 points heading into the series but was shut down to just 7.4 PPG on a dismal 29% shooting. Cabagnot also disappeared in the series, getting just 9.8 points and 4 assists per outing.
San Mig Coffee did the same against Japeth Aguilar, who averaged just over 11 points. The Mixers also like keeping scores low so they have to limit the Painters - every single one of them - to succeed.
What this series means: Coach Yeng Guiao is shooting for his first Philippine Cup crown in over a decade now, and he has the big tools to do it. Coach Tim Cone meanwhile, who has 15 PBA titles, has a golden chance of eclipsing the legendary Baby Dalupan as the winningest coach in league history if he wins this series.
But more than the personal piece of history, Rain or Shine and San Mig Coffee will engage in a tight battle for the right to be hailed the best team in the country.
Will San Mig have enough gas for the finale? Is there a way to solve Rain or Shine's seemingly invincible riddle? We will find out the answers soon. - Rappler.com