After a less than desirable start to this year’s Governor’s Cup, the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters find themselves in familiar territory as they enter the quarterfinals as the second seed with a twice-to-beat advantage against seventh seeded Air 21. Despite finding themselves in the more favorable (in my opinion) side of the bracket, the Elasto Painters will have their hands full against an Air 21 team that’s truly stronger than their record suggests.
In their elimination round game that opened the Governor’s Cup, the Express beat Rain or Shine 103 – 96 in a game where Air 21 dominated the rebounding, 54-36, including an 18-11 offensive rebounding edge that helped fuel a total of 13 second chance points for the Express. The Elasto Painters did a good job of forcing turnovers and get out on the break, but they just allowed Air 21 to get too many extra possessions to negate whatever advantages their swarming defense gave them. With both teams virtually staying the same coming into the playoffs, this match-up promises to be one of contrasting styles that should have both teams trying to impose their will on the other from the get-go.
Keys to the Game
Find the Right Balance
Rain or Shine comes into this game as the hottest team in the league, having won five straight games, including a 51 and 19 point blowouts of Alaska and Meralco respectively. The team has done this behind the Elasto Painter’s patented run-and-gun attack, fueled by a swarming defense that forces a ton of turnovers. However, their focus on the fastbreak and tendency to gamble on defense often leads to some unfavorable situations on the floor. This explains the team’s penchant of getting out-rebounded (especially on the offensive glass) since most of their players are already leaking out on the break after a shot goes up.
Against Air 21’s collection of tough bigs in Taulava, Camson, Ramos, Villanueva, Anthony and Sutton, Rain or Shine should make sure to find the right balance between running and limiting offensive rebounds. Getting easy points in transition is great and it is a great way to deflate an opponent’s confidence, but easy scores off offensive rebounds does exactly the same thing, plus it’s actually a great way of getting the opposing team in foul trouble since defenders are usually out of position during those circumstances.
If Rain or Shine wants to end this in one game, then they should ensure that they finish the majority of their defensive possessions before looking to run. Hopefully, their faster and fresher legs will allow them to do so in this one.
Bring Back the Beau
Something’s wrong. I haven’t seen Beau hurt anyone with a hard foul yet this conference.
Kidding. He has, I think… But in any case, Belga must be able to contain Taulava by himself here to make life easier for his team’s defense. The captain of the Express is currently averaging 18 points, 13 rebounds and 3 assists per game and is often option 1A after Sutton. Limiting Taulava without any help will allow Rain or Shine to stay honest on the Express shooters and will also decrease the instances of “blind” offensive rebounds from players that have been left unguarded due to late rotations and double teams.
Limit the X-Factors
It’s no secret that the Elasto Painters thrive on the strength of their bench, but if there’s one team that has the same amount of dangerous unpredictability from the bench, then it’s definitely the Air 21 Express. With Cardona, Poligrates and now Anthony, Coach Franz now has a number of players that can inject a lot of energy and havoc into any situation and could easily sway a game into their favor with their scoring and defense. The Elasto Painters should make sure to keep an eye on these players as a big game from only one of these guys could easily push Air 21 into a winner take all match-up on Friday.
This one’s going to be a fun, back and forth game, but Rain or Shine’s momentum heading into this one should be enough to end this series Wednesday night.
It’s time to Elasto Paint the town red towards another championship. :P