As the pairing suggests, this series may not last that long. The Rain or Shine Elasto Painters wouldn’t even be in this stage if they hadn’t blown a 14-point lead against NLEX last week.
While the team narrowly missed the shortcut to the semi-finals, Rain or Shine still impressed, given the absence of superstar guard Paul Lee. The Elasto Painters became one of the best teams in the league with the help of an upgraded backcourt/wing rotation and the improvement of key players.
Beau Belga, Jewel Ponferrada, Raymond Almazan, Jeff Chan, and Jericho Cruz are just some of the players who have improved in respective categories, and the Elasto Painters kept growing collectively.
As one of the most stacked teams, the Elasto Painters made sure to keep the balance for a successful elimination round campaign. No player has played over 25 minutes/game, while seven have averaged at least 8 points/game.
In stark contrast, it is clear the Blackwater Elite are just happy to make the franchise’s first playoff appearance. The run this conference has included wins over Mahindra, Meralco, and Barako Bull Energy, as the team barely escaped elimination.
While hopes are not-so-high for the Elite to make it past this level, the team wants to learn from the experience as they try to push Rain or Shine to the limit.
Without Lee, Chan was Rain or Shine’s leading scorer in the elimination round, averaging highs of 14.4 points/game on an astounding clip of 46.3 percent from three-point territory.
Again, with Lee sidelined, everyone stepped up to deal damage. Beau Belga has averaged 12.2 PPG and has shot 40 percent from deep; Jericho Cruz [READ: The Meteoric Rise of Jericho Cruz] is on a breakout conference, piling up 13.8 PPG 2.6 RPG, and 2.3 APG. Raymond Almazan is one of the top offensive rebounders and has improved overall on both ends of the floor. Young guys like Maverick Ahanmisi, Josan Nimes, and Don Trollano are all getting quality minutes, giving Rain or Shine even more depth.
The Elite barely felt the absence of Brian Heruela as Mike Cortez stepped in to provide steady playmaking and leadership. Cortez increased his assists average from 2.5/game last season to 4.6/game in this conference, and his assist rate from 17.5 to 22.2. With a veteran facilitator who is an exceptional game-reader, Blackwater are getting better shots.
Lastimosa quickly became Blackwater’s top shooting guard in the elimination round, as he has shown relentless every time on the floor. This mentality helped yield him a team-best 15.4 PPG, to go with 2.5 APG. The young scorer should continue being aggressive to create opportunities for the Elite.
As one of the big men in the regular rotation, Ponferrada has enjoyed career-bests of 8.8 PPG and 5.9 RPG. He has to keep the Blackwater bigs away from the glass and protect the interior for Rain or Shine.
Cervantes was a mere 21-percent three-point shooter before firing 6-for-8 from downtown in the decisive win against Mahindra. As the team’s primary stretch four, giving more space to the team is his role. Getting those shots to fall again will make him a threat and help open the lanes for his teammates.
Will Yeng Guiao and the Elasto Painters continue their amazing run or will Leo Isaac and the Elite push their opponents to the brink? Sound-off in our comments section below
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