Despite failing to quickly end the series back in Game Three, the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters made sure that they were the better team in this semifinals series against the San Miguel Beermen as they closed it out in a dominating 124-99 finish to advance to the PBA Commissioner’s Cup finale at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum Sunday evening.
San Miguel paraded a familiar face in AZ Reid to take their import spot after losing Tyler Wilkerson prior to Game Three. Reid, who led San Miguel in their 2016 Governor’s Cup campaign, and quickly made his presence felt by scoring nine points in the first quarter. Despite the quick start by SMB’s returning reinforcement, Rain or Shine kept on pace with the Beermen, as they took a one point lead after the tight opening frame.
Within five minutes of the second quarter, Rain or Shine was able to bliw the game wide open as the scoreboard turned into a 42-30 advantage capped by a triple by Paul Lee. SMB failed to convert successive baskets on their trips while Rain or Shine displayed a dazzling array of shooting from the floor. The Painters had their best scoring quarter during the second with 38 points, while limiting San Miguel to a subpar 20.
Alex Cabagnot and AZ Reid tried to rally their group in the third frame. The two combined for SMB’s third quarter run to melt the deficit down to 14, from as high as 21 back in the second quarter. However, Jericho Cruz responded with key back-to-back triples from the left corner to restore a comfortable 85-66 lead for the Elasto Painters. Entering the fourth, San Miguel’s defense yielded 92 points by the Elasto Painters.
Adding to San Miguel’s woes was Marcio Lassiter. The sharpshooter fouled out of the game early in the final frame much to the chagrin of the Beermen faithful in attendance.
At that point, it was all Rain or Shine from all the triples falling down. The Elasto Painters further stretched their lead, as Raymond Almazan also joined the scoring party from downlow. Coach Yeng Guiao started to empty his bench with still a handful of minutes remaining, signalling a done deal in the series with four minutes remaining the game.
This will be Rain or Shine’s sixth finals appearance, fourth with foreign reinforcements.
Guiao acknowledge the time constraints he head with the team due to his campaigns, but commended the squad for a great conference so far. “I’m really most proud of the resiliency of my team. I haven’t been practicing with them for the last few days, as I’ve been going only to the games,” he said. “I like to give credit to the coaching staff, they prepared this team really well. And the players themselves are motivated. I do the rotation, which plays to call, but most of it is really in the players’ effort.”
Further, he addressed the players hunger to be in the finals, while stressing the need of having Paul Lee in the regular rotation. “This team has been motivated from the start,” Guiao added. “We’ve been very consistent and they’ve been really longing to be in the finals. Matagal na nilang inaasam yan.”
“I’d also like to give credit to Paul Lee, who’s game is really coming back. It’s a really good time for it.”
Lee led the way with 18 points off the bench on 6/9 shooting and dished out five assists. Pierre Henderson-Niles and Gabe Norwood each had 15, as everyone in their 15-men roster barged into the scoring column.
For the eliminated San Miguel team, Lassiter had 20 points with five triples. AZ Reid tallied 25 points in his only Commissioner Cup game but struggled from the field in shooting just 12/25, missing all six attempts from beyond-the-arc.
The Finals will start depending on when the Meralco Bolts-Alaska Aces series ends. Game One of the finale will begin on Wednesday if Alaska closes their bracket tomorrow night. Otherwise, it will begin on Friday.
Rain or Shine (124) – Lee 18, Henderson-Niles 15, Norwood 15, Tiu 13, Cruz 12, Almazan 10, Ahanmisi 9, Quinahan 8, Chan 6, Ponferada 5, Belga 4, Ibanes 3, Nimes 2, Teng 2, Trollano 2.
San Miguel (99) – Reid 25, Lassiter 20, Cabagnot 18, Fajardo 12, Espinas 6, Ross 6, Santos 6, David 5, De Ocampo 1, Arana 0, Heruela 0, Tubid 0.
Quarterscores: 23-22, 61-42, 92-70, 124-99