Chan's sacrifice helps Rain or Shine extend series
MANILA, Philippines – The night before leading his team to their most important game of the PBA season, Rain or Shine head coach Yeng Guiao received a call that would alter the fate of the Elasto Painters in Game 6 of the Commissioner’s Cup Finals.
Rain or Shine went 2-1 in the first three games with Jeff Chan in the line-up, fighting through every bit of his body begging him to stop playing as the pain on his foot reached a boiling point.
Chan braved on anyway to help give his team an early series lead, but a hit on his foot in the third game left him no choice but to sit out games 4 and 5 - both of which Talk ’N Text won in convincing fashion as he sat helpless on the sidelines.
Rain or Shine has made the PBA Finals in 5 out of the last 9 conferences. But each of the past three trips, they’ve come up short.
The last they won a title was back in 2012, and the team is hungry to finally hoist a PBA championship in celebration once again. Chan and his teammates have suffered heartbreak after another, and after Game 5 it looked as if Talk ’N Text was going to add another chapter to the Elasto Painters’ book of agonizing defeats.
That's why Chan, even moments after an MRI revealed he tore his plantar fasciitis, called up his head coach and said he wanted to play. Pain be damned, if Rain or Shine, down 3-2, was going to have their championship run end against Talk ’N Text in Game 6, he would be there fighting with his comrades on the court rather than witnessing defeat from the bench.
“He just called me up. It was [at] night. He talked to his doctor and then they looked at the MRI - torn na daw yung plantar fasciitis niya… Sabi niya, ‘If I can tolerate the pain, I’ll play. I’ll warm up. I’ll shoot around, and then I’ll tell you kung pwede.’” Guiao said about the phone call that changed Game 6, and quite possibly, the rest of this finals.
“Sabi naman ng doc, dahil championship, pwede naman ako mag risk kasi two games lang daw. Kaso sabi nga, may pain,” Chan said.
(The doctor said since it’s the championship, I can risk playing because it's just two games.)
“So kung kaya, tuloy. Pero pag hindi, decision ko mag stop. So yun, tinawagan ko si coach. Sabi ko, ‘Coach, may go signal naman kay doc. I’ll try,’ sabi ko.”
(So if I could play, go for it. But if not, then it would be my decision to stop. So I called coach. I told him that the doctor gave the go signal.)
Said Guiao, “So kanina, when I came in the dugout, sabi niya he can play a few minutes. So I tried him and he delivered.”
“More than the points, was just the gesture - symbolic gesture of showing his teammates that he wanted to fight it out and he wanted to show to them.”
Chan scored 11 points in a little less than 12 minutes of play. His first shot was a beauty from the post - an up-and-under move that spearheaded a Rain or Shine run that eventually turned to a 16-point second quarter lead. He was fouled shooting a three-ball and made all free throws. He hit two more triples after. His performance was vintage Chan - the kind Rain or Shine needs to counter the scoring arsenal of the Tropang Texters, who eventually fell 101-93.
But more than the numbers on the scoreboard, seeing Chan hobbling through pain, potentially risking his career, for a shot at keeping his team alive inspired his teammates. There was no way they were going to let him down, not after what he was putting on the line.
“I call it dedication to the game,” import Wayne Chism described Chan’s sacrifice. “Jeff's been sitting out a while with that foot injury. Game 3, I believe, he took a shot in the foot, and he helped us win game 3. And then Jeff came out today in limited minutes, but Jeff gave us key minutes and he did a great job.”
“Sobrang bilib ako dun kasi, alam mo yan, sinasabi niya masakit na pero for the sake of the team, kahit konting contribution lang. Sobrang fighter talaga,” was how Raymond Almazan, who had his best game of the conference with 18 crucial points in Game 6, called Chan’s play.
(I’m really impressed by him, because even if he’s saying he’s in pain, he’s still playing for the team and contributing. He’s really a fighter.)
“Unbelievable,” was the term used by Paul Lee, who’s nursing a few ailments of his own. “Mas lalo ako nakakakuha nang lakas nang loob kasi ako marami na rin akong nararamdaman pero siya punit yung talampakan niya, naglaro siya.”
(I get strength from him because even if his foot is torn, he still played.)
“Lumalabas lang na gusto niya talagang manalo. Gusto niya manalo ng championship. Binigay niya lahat. Sinacrifice niya yung injury niya na kahit alam natin na pag lumala, mas masakit tsaka mas matagal siya mag re-recover.”
(It really shows that he wants to win. He wants to win a championship. He gave it his all. He sacrificed his injury even if he knew it could get worse and it could take longer for him to recover.)
Explained Guiao: “Even in pain, that he was going to help his team - that helps.”
Chan tried nearly everything to heal his foot: acupuncture, injection, laser, shockwave treatment. But a tear is a tear, and he realizes that amount of pain he’s putting himself into by continuing to play, and the possible hazardous outcome of not resting his injury now.
But one game remains. One game that determine whether the Elasto Painters finally attain the coveted second championship in their franchise history, or another devastating defeat.
“Gusto ko makatulong sa team eh,” said Chan, who’s averaging 12 points and 47% shooting from downtown in the series. “Sayang yung nandito na kami sa finals.”
(I want to help the team. We’re already in the finals.)
“Gusto ko mag champion kasi laging finals - pang-ilan finals ko na - laging banderang kapos eh,” said Almazan, who in his rookie year helped bring his team to the finals twice, only to fall at the hands of the Coffee Mixers in both occasions.
(I want to win the championship because I’ve been in the finals a number of times and we’ve always come up short.)
Doing so, however, won’t be easy. Rain or Shine played superb in Game 6, but Ivan Johnson will likely not score just 6 points again in Game 7, nor will Ranidel De Ocampo and Jayson Castro combine to go 11-of-29 from the field. Everything is on the line now. In 48 minutes, a single possession, a single loose ball, a single mistimed jump, could make a huge difference between victory and defeat, jubilee and misery.
“Guts,” is how Chism describe what it’s going to take to win Game 7 - the two most exciting words in basketball.
“It’s going to take that at the end of the day. What team wants it more at the end of game 7 - if it goes into overtime or ends in just regulation - whoever works hard at the end of the game is going to come out with the championship.”
“Alam ko kaya naman namin manalo eh,” said Lee. “So push pa sa sarili ko tsaka kuha pa ako ng lakas nang loob sa mga teammates ko, kasi nandiyan sila para sa bawa’t isa.”
(We know we can win. So I’m just pushing myself and trying to find more strength from my teammates, because we’re all here for each other.)
The belief in each other, along with sacrifice and confidence, is the core attributes of this Elasto Painters core. In most cases, they’re considered the underdogs. But they don’t abhor it; they relish the chance to take down the favorites. And on Wednesday, April 29, they will get the chance to bring down mighty Talk 'N Text and finally get the proverbial monkey of being the PBA's bridesmaids off their backs.
“We’re just taking it and we’re taking it one game at a time. This is what we’ve been hoping for. We’re the underdogs. To take a favorite team into a game 7, that’s already an achievement… what else can I ask for?” said Guiao.
As for the past? Will the heartbreaks of yesterday affect the opportunity in store for the Elasto Painters in the present?
“I don’t think so because we’re not even talking about that,” Guiao said. “I don’t even mention the history - what happened. It’s a new ball game, it’s a new series, so it’s not going to help just thinking about the frustrations of the past. We’re just focusing on the moment and enjoying the moment.”
Part of being in the moment is being there for each other, like Chan was for his teammates in Game 6. His ability to spread the floor improved their offense. His sacrifice motivated the squad. His foot needs two weeks to a month to properly heal, but for now, it will have to brave on for one at least one more battle. For himself. For his coach. For his teammates.
“I’ll do anything to help the team,” Chan said.
“I got confidence,” said Chism. “I always have confidence in my team. My team always has my back and I’m never going to run away from my team like that. So I’m going to be there with my team when we lose, I’m going to be there with my team when we win.”
And so will everyone else. One game remains, and it's going to be for all the marbles. Game 7 - the most exciting words in basketball. – Rappler.com