Tough, confident, and together is Rain or Shine at its best

Naveen Ganglani
Tough, confident, and together is Rain or Shine at its best
Rain or Shine's tough as nails team basketball is on full display and it has so far helped them take a 2-1 series lead in the 2015 PBA Commissioner's Cup finals

MANILA, Philippines – There’s no point in trying to rattle the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters with cheap shots and physical play. It doesn’t discourage them from attacking the rim or returning the favor with a few elbows of their own. Heck, It even feeds their desire and motivation.

Think if you take away their best player, that will be enough to put them down, left in the dust? Take out Paul Lee and sure enough, someone else like Jeff Chan, Gabe Norwood, or even a rookie like Jericho Cruz will be ready to answer the call to step up.

They’re underdogs most of the time – a role they not only accept, but also thrive in. They don’t have the resources of other teams. But they often have the one factor that could be most important in basketball: a chip on their shoulder.

Their biggest priority is on the basketball court, where they’re tough, confident, and unselfish – three keys to become successful in the PBA.

So when Talk ’N Text Tropang Texters import Ivan Johnson thought he could intimidate the Elasto Painters in game three of the PBA Commissioner’s Cup finals, he wound up being the one brought to the floor after hard fouls, with the jeers of Rain or Shine fans always close to his ears and the scoreboard atop the Smart Araneta Coliseum displaying the beating his team was getting. 

Talk ’N Text thought they could go into game three with the same defensive plan and stop the Elasto Painters, but they were outclassed in nearly every fundamental of the game.

Rain or Shine was quicker to loose balls, they were fighting tooth and nail for every offensive rebound, they were making the extra passes that led to better shots, and they were playing as one cohesive unit. 

The Tropang Texters gave the ball, over and over again, to Jayson Castro, as if saying, “Here, Jayson, lead us to victory.” It worked against Purefoods. It worked in game one. It worked in the first half of game two. But something changed after halftime of the second battle, and ever since then, Rain or Shine’s defense has been impenetrable.  

“We really played fantastic defense tonight,” Guiao said after game three. 

“We were determined to come into this game and make it difficult for them to execute their offense. I guess this whole thing, this victory, was brought about by just elevating our level of play in terms of defense.”

Their defense remained headstrong despite the number of skirmishes, tough fouls, and flagrant foul calls Guiao felt were one-sided.

The Tropang Texters rolled to the finals because they’ve been more talented and resolved than their past opponents. But they now face another monster just as, if not more, deadly than they are. Rain or Shine doesn’t turn away from a fight; they dive head-first into it. 

“It’s very normal, because my team ain’t going to back down from nobody,” said Wayne Chism, who finished with 31 points, 15 rebounds, 3 assists, and 3 steals in the 109-97 victory.  

“Raymond [Almazan] ain’t going to back down… Beau [Belga] ain’t going to back down from nobody. So it doesn’t matter what happens on the floor out there. If one of our teammates goes down, the whole bench or somebody on our team is going to step up for him.”

Chism was phenomenal in game three. It was the kind of performance that was worthy of the Best Import of the Conference award. It was the kind of performance that elevated the play of the rest of his teammates.

He was knocking down shots when he was open, passing the ball when he was hindered by double-teams, and was rallying the Rain or Shine crowd. His comrades fed off his energy

“It’s about us being together, staying together. If somebody gets pushed, we’re going to be there for one another,” Chism said.

“That’s our game. We run, we’re physical, we rebound and we play strong team defense.”

“Wayne Chism also showed his class,” his head coach said. “He just outplayed Ivan Johnson in this game today. That’s another thing that contributed to our win tonight – Wayne Chism played probably his best game all-around… That was a big help.” 

FINE PLAY. Rain or Shine import Wayne Chism played superb in Game 3 displaying an all-around game which is exactly what the Elasto Painters needed. Photo by Josh Albelda/Rappler

Another Rain or Shine warrior who deserves praise is Lee. He came in the series making it clear that he wasn’t out to campaign for the Best Player of the Conference award, even if he and Castro are neck-and-neck for the plum.  

Lee has won a championship once with the Elasto Painters. It’s been nearly three years since, and he and his teammates are hungry to raise another PBA title above their heads. Regardless of who they have to go through to get there. It also doesn’t matter what injuries may slow them down on the way. 

So when Lee received an accidental elbow from Johnson that had one of his teeth fall to the floor in a pool of blood and two more dislocate up to his gums, it wasn’t a surprise when he came back to the playing court minutes later, and after a while, check back to place the final nail in the coffin of game three. 

“Players lose their teeth. Players get stitches. It’s part of the job. Just as long as he can play, that’s what’s important,” Guiao said about his star point guard.

“Yeah, I knew Paul would come back. Paul is tough, just the finest,” said Chism.

“We got no excuses. If you can come back and play from the injury, come back. If not, then sit down and rest yourself because we got other players on the team that can step up and help you out and have your back the whole game.”

“He’s already playing hurt right now. He sprained his ankle twice already, but he really wants to win a championship,” Guiao added about Lee.

“He’s ready to play in pain and he’s doing that already. And hopefully we can finish this series with him able to play.” 

Now Rain or Shine moves to game four. A win gives them a chokehold on the series. A loss makes the best-of-seven a best-of-three.

Talk ’N Text will be ready; they always are. Castro is just as hungry as Lee when it comes to winning a championship. Johnson, for all his rough play, always comes prepared and can light up the scoreboard. Jong Uichico is a champion head coach, and he will have his veteran-laden squad ready for battle.

“He’s ready to play in pain and he’s doing that already. And hopefully we can finish this series with him able to play,” said Guiao, who believes his team is “fresher than [Talk ’N Text] at this point.” 

“We’ll just focus on winning this series. Game four is on Wednesday. We’ll make the adjustments if there’s any adjustments we need to make and we’ll prepare a lot harder.” 

ONE UNIT. The Rain or Shine Elasto Painters, seen here celebrating their game 3 win, have been playing like a well-oiled machine. Photo by Josh Albelda/Rappler

If the first three games are any indication, then the rest of the finals is going to be rough and rugged, with quite possibly more hard, flagrant, and technical fouls.  

The winner will be determined not only by who executes better on the hardwoord, but also by who will be stronger mentally.

Talk ’N Text won’t be easy to deal with, but right now, Rain or Shine has the upper hand after their dominant performance in game three.

They don’t mind how physical a game gets, because they’re used to it. They believe in their system. They believe in their head coach. And they believe in each other. 

Most importantly, they believe they can emerge from this war victorious. –

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