From here on out, it doesn’t get any easier for Rain or Shine.
After dispatching of what could arguably the “easiest” team to beat this conference in Air 21 last Saturday, the Elasto Painters return to action on Friday against a Meralco team that’s coming off a defensive masterpiece against the Alaska Aces.
With each loss carrying enough weight to propel a team down more than one spot in the standings, Coach Yeng and his team must continue the little momentum they have now and proceed to string together some wins to ensure their top four playoff seeding and a twice to beat advantage.
Just how exactly will Rain or Shine be able to get passed this Meralco team? Let’s check out our keys to the game:
Mario West, Cliff Hodge and Reynel Hugnatan absolutely owned Alaska’s frontline in their last game. Wendell McKines: 13 points (lowest output from an import this conference), 10 rebounds on 33% shooting. Calvin Abueva: nine points on 22% shooting, 4 boards, five turnovers and six fouls. Hugnatan and Hodge may not be the thickest of big men, but both ironically use Abueva-like energy and persistence to position themselves well on rebounds and on defense. Both players have consistently grabbed double digit boards this conference for Meralco and their athleticism and speed will definitely be a new challenge for Rain or Shine’s burly, but slow (in comparison) big man rotation.
Rain or Shine must turn the tables on the Meralco bigs by taking them out of the game early. From the opening tip, the Elasto Painters must establish that the action in the paint will be played on their terms and by their rules. I’ll forgive Belga or Quinahan for fouling out in this game, just send Meralco a clear message!
Outside of Sunday Salvacion, Meralco is pretty inconsistent when it comes to shooting threes (they shot a conference-low 11% from downtown in their last game). With Chris Ross, John Wilson and a returning Mac Cardona all strong finishers inside, it would be better if the Elasto Painters prioritized clogging up the lane first and force the Bolts to prove that they can consistently hit treys before making any adjustments.
In three out of the four games that Paul Lee has played, he has been the most consistent Rain or Shine local on the court. It’s definitely looking like a bounce back season for the reigning best rookie and Coach Yeng Guiao should do everything that he can to get Lee going early. When the angas ng Tondo gets into his groove, it doesn’t only allow him to put points up on the board, but it also forces defenses to focus on him, opening up more passing lanes for him to work with and get his teammates involved.
With almost a week of rest and practice time for the team, Rain or Shine should be more than prepared coming into this game. They may have also caught a break with Reynel Hugnatan most probably being limited or out due to a sprained ankle, so I see them getting their 2nd two-game winning streak in this conference.