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Norwood believes Rain or Shine will rely on defense in the end

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More than scoring 119 points, including 41 in the second quarter alone, Rain or Shine — the no. 3 defensive team in the league this conference — relied on defense to avoid a huge meltdown against Kia on Sunday night.

The Elasto Painters rolled past the Carnival 119-99, but had some anxious moments in the fourth, when Kia pulled to within nine, 90-99, despite trailing by as much as 25 points. Fortunately for the Elasto Painters, Rain or Shine’s defensive unit, in the end, helped them get stops to secure the no. 1 seed heading into the PBA Commissioner’s Cup playoffs.

Rain or Shine head coach, Yeng Guiao fielded Raymond Almazan, Wayne Chism, Gabe Norwood, Chris Tiu, and Paul Lee with over seven minutes left in regulation and with the Carnival down 90-99. Almazan missed wide open jumpers prior to that point, but Guiao kept him inside the match, which proved to be a great decision. Chism would front Kia import PJ Ramos to prevent the entry pass, and Almazan would just stay underneath the basket for help defense. Norwood also helped on the strong side to bother Ramos whenever he wanted to issue a kick out pass. “Raymond missed the easy shots, but made the difficult ones. I guess that is enough reason to keep him in the game,” Guiao said. “He is also rebounding against Ramos. That is a positive sign for us and a sign of maturity for him.”

The result: Almazan would get the defensive boards, preventing Kia from getting any second chance opportunities at the basket. Rain or Shine went on a 17-5 tear in a span of five minutes to break the game wide open, 116-95 before Guiao finally rested his starters. It helped that Kia only had Rich Alvarez as its other big on the floor, instead of Reil Cervantes, as it gave Almazan the confidence to not be too concerned with his man, and instead focus on Ramos. Cervantes is obviously a bigger threat on offense, and that he made it more difficult for Almazan on the defense. In one instance, Cervantes sunk two straight jumpers in front of the Elasto Painters forward early in the fourth. In another, Cervantes pulled Almazan out of the shaded area and that meant single coverage on the hulking Ramos.Philippine Sports News - Tiebreaker Times Norwood believes Rain or Shine will rely on defense in the end    It changed when Alvarez was on the floor while Rain or Shine went with the trio of Norwood, Almazan, and Chism in the frontline. “I think that is one of the plus points of our team, we are very versatile on defense. That lineup was long and athletic to cover enough space without moving too much or we can go small and apply ball pressure. It distracted them. They wanted to go to PJ a lot,” Norwood said.

“We have to adjust to the personnel on the floor. Kyle Pascual can hit jumpers. Reil can stretch it to the three while Alvarez is more of a variety guy so it worked to our benefit.”

In addition, the Elasto Painters also switched to a zone in the first quarter, whenever Ramos received the ball in the low post. With a smaller, quicker lineup of Chism and Beau Belga plus Jeff Chan, Ryan Araña, and Jonathan Uyloan, it was easier for them to rotate and at least recover defensively. “[Alvarez on the floor] helped Almazan to float, but Alvarez is a good cutter so that actually forced me to help on the cut. Luckily, Raymond’s length was enough to bother the crosscourt pass,” he added. More than the offense and depth of Guiao’s crew, defense shall be the key if this team wants to win it all. “A lot of the guys were in the championship team [in 2012] and if we can do a consistent job defensively, we will be a tougher team to beat.”

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