MANILA, Philippines – Top seed Bay Area lived up to its billing and became the first team to reach the semifinals of the PBA Commissioner’s Cup after a 126-96 romp of Rain or Shine at the PhilSports Arena on Friday, December 9.
Back in action after month-long layoff, Andrew Nicholson showed no rust in his return to action for the twice-to-beat Dragons, chalking up 32 points and 8 rebounds in 34 minutes as the foreign squad advanced to the final four.
Nicholson got reactivated as import after Bay Area relegated Myles Powell to the injured/reserved list due to a foot injury.
Powell took the PBA by storm, averaging a league-leading 37.3 points on top of 8.4 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 steals to power the Dragons to perfect 8-0 card with him as their reinforcement.
While the import switch came at the height of a four-game winning streak, Bay Area needed no adjustments and hardly missed the perimeter scoring of Powell as Hayden Blankley stepped up and fired a career-high 47 points.
Blankley waxed from beyond the arc and drained 10 of his 13 three-pointers, erupting for 36 points in the second half alone to take the fight out of the weary Elasto Painters.
Prior to the playoffs, Rain or Shine head coach Yeng Guiao expressed concern for the disparity of talent between the eight seed Elasto Painters and the Dragons.
Guiao worried that Bay Area is too strong a team for the rest of the PBA field with a formidable selection of talent, including two former NBA players as its imports.
His fear proved well founded, with Nicholson unloading 23 points in the first half to help the Dragons mount a commanding 60-44 lead before Blankley shot the lights out in the last two quarters in the lopsided win.
Bay Area led by as many as 34 points, 85-51, en route to its fifth consecutive victory.
Glen Yang churned out all-around numbers of 13 points, 10 assists, and 5 rebounds for the Dragons, who shot a blistering 51% (21-of-41) from three-point land and hauled down 20 more rebounds.
Rey Nambatac finished with 19 points and 4 rebounds to lead Rain or Shine.
Bay Area 126 – Blankley 47, Nicholson 32, Yang 13, Zhu 9, Song 6, Zheng 5, Lam 5, Liu 4, Ewing 3, Reid 2, Si 0, Ju 0, Zhang 0.
Rain or Shine 96 – Nambatac 19, Pearson 15, Caracut 12, Nieto 12, Asistio 9, Mamuyac 8, Clarito 7, Santillan 7, Belga 3, Ponferrada 1, Norwood 0, Guinto 0, Ildefonso 0, Torres 0.
Quarters: 27-16, 60-44, 92-68, 126-96.