Rey Nambatac saved the day once again as he lifted Rain or Shine past NorthPort, 70-68, for their third straight win in the 2020 PBA Philippine Cup Sunday at the Angeles University Foundation Sports and Cultural Center in Pampanga.
The third-year guard coolly sank his charities with 1.3 seconds left to shut the door close for the Batang Pier, who, despite being undermanned, came back from 11 down and tied the game at 68-all behind Christian Standhardinger.
Nambatac finished with 10 points, six rebounds, and six assists in nearly 30 minutes as the Elasto Painters gained a share of the top spot with another 3-0 team in the TNT Tropang GIGA.
“Ever since he was my player in Letran, I’d already seen he has the guts to take those shots,” said head coach Caloy Garcia as Nambatac came up in the clutch again like what he did versus San Miguel and Terrafirma.
The veteran mentor, however, wasn’t pleased with the production of his wards on offense. Rain or Shine actually started slow and fell behind 7-18 at the start, and shot just 29-percent in the game.
“It was really an ugly game for us. I wanted a better game from us, I wanted better production from everybody. It was just an ugly game for us. I believe that we can do better,” Garcia said.
“We just have to review what went wrong, Maybe tinamaan na rin kami ng pagod because we just played our third game [in six days], and that’s the reason why we rotated so much players today,” he added.
The Elasto Painters, though, received a timely contribution from rookie Adrian Wong, top-scoring for his side with 15 points spiked by three three-pointers alongside two rebounds, two assists, and a steal in 20 minutes.
“Actually I shouted at him ’cause he kept on hesitating. He looked scared. I told him, ‘You look scared inside, just play the way you’re supposed to play.’ The nice thing is he stepped up after I said that,” said Garcia.
Wong, one of Rain or Shine’s three first-round picks in last year’s draft, scored eight of his points in the final frame, including the triple that gave the Elasto Painters a 63-52 lead with 5:16 remaining in the game.
That appeared to be a comfortable cushion to lean on until Kelly Nabong sparked a 16-5 Batang Pier rally, capped by a Standhardinger off-balanced shot near the rim that tied things up at 68-all with 3.3 ticks left.
Rain or Shine then went to Nambatac for the last shot, and he drove to the hoop where he was able to get a foul off Paolo Taha that led to his trip to the line. He sank both of his shots for the lead and the eventual final count.
The Batang Pier tried to snatch the game but rookie Sean Manganti’s three from the wing was swatted by Javee Mocon.
Garcia is proud of the consistency the Elasto Painters have been showing on defense three games into the tilt, which was evident during the second quarter where they limited the opposition to just two points.
Per PBA stats chief Fidel Mangonon III, that equaled the league’s all-time record for fewest points in a quarter — by Ginebra in the third quarter of its 83-54 loss versus Coca-Cola on Apr. 26, 2003, and by Mobiline in the first of its 71-69 defeat to Sta. Lucia on Feb. 28, 2001. Its 1-of-21 shooting also equaled the second all-time worst in a quarter, which Mobiline recorded in the same game.
“We started bad but on the defensive side we felt that we were consistent,” said Garcia. “The first three games we played, it’s all low-scoring games. I think the bonus that we got is that two of those games were like this: close games. But like I said, I think we can still do better, especially on the offensive side. Defensively, I’m happy with what we’re showing.”
Standhardinger, Sean Anthony, and Garvo Lanete all had 13 points while Nabong chimed in 10 markers for the Batang Pier, who only played with 11 men as Kevin Ferrer sat out due to a swollen foot.
NorthPort, who is already without young star Robert Bolick to continue his recovery from the anterior cruciate ligament injury he sustained in October of last year, has lost its third game in as many games in the bubble.
Rain or Shine will have a four-day break before gunning for 4-0 against Alaska on Thursday, Oct. 22, at 6:45 p.m. NorthPort, meanwhile, will look to end its misery against the 0-3 NLEX on Wednesday, Oct. 21, at 4:00 p.m.
Rain or Shine (70) – Wong 15, Onwubero 11, Nambatac 10, Mocon 6, Dolliguez 6, Yap 5, Torres 5, Belga 5, Arana 3, Norwood 2, Rivero 0, Rosales 0, Tolentino 0, Borboran 0.
NorthPort (68) – Anthony 13, Lanete 13, Standhardinger 3, Revilla 7, Taha 4, Manganti 3, Cruz 3, Elorde 2, Subido 0, Grey 0, Guinto 0, Ferrer 0.
Quarterscores: 14-25, 32-38, 46-40, 70-68.