View From the Enemy: Rain or Shine Elasto Painters
After topping the eliminations and getting past a tough Ginebra squad in the quarterfinals, Petron’s road to redemption got tougher as they are about face the rough and tough defending champion Rain oR Shine in a best-of-five semifinals series of the season-ending conference.
Finishing the eliminations with an 8-1 record and taking advantage of their twice-to-beat incentive by eliminating crowd favorite Ginebra with a 101-94 victory last Thursday, the Blaze Boosters are in for one big challenge as the Elasto Painters stand in their quest for getting back their lost glory.
It feels like the early 2000’s again as the 19-time PBA champions will once again face a familiar nemesis in the name of Yeng Guiao who tormented their hearts with Red Bull many times before. This time, Yeng will be coaching a squad similar to his Red Bull team that rivaled Petron, San Miguel back then in a lot of classic and physical series.
If there’s any significance of their first encounter this conference, Coach Gee Abanilla and his boys got the upper hand in the match-up as they dominated Rain Or Shine in the eliminations with a 99-84 win. Elijah Millsap was very impressive in that game as he logged in 33 points and 13 rebounds to lead the Blaze Boosters in annihilating the Elasto Painters. It was a complete domination for Petron as they started that game like a house on fire and was able to weather any storm attempted by Rain Or Shine.
Petron’s Road to the Semis
The Blaze Boosters, by virtue of their league-leading 8-1 record, was able to secure a twice-to-beat incentive and took advantage of it by squeezing a 101-94 win against Ginebra in the quarterfinals. Petron avoided a huge meltdown with the timely hits of Arwind Santos and Marcio Lassiter during the end game to keep the crowd favorites at bay. Rain Or Shine on the other hand, ended the elims with a 5-4 record to go with a twice-to-beat advantage against Global Port which they beat with a thrilling 108-106 victory last Thursday.
Keys to the Series for Petron
The last time Petron went deep in the playoffs was two seasons ago when they faced bitter rivals Talk N Text in a best-of-seven semifinals series wherein they lost a commanding 3-1 series lead to the eventual All Filipino Cup champions. It has been disappointment from then on as they had a lot of heartbreaks and lackluster showings in the next conferences highlighted by dramas on and off the court. This time, Petron has a chance to redeem lost glory and erase all the negativities. But going up against one of the best teams in the league, what does Petron need to do in order to march to the Finals?
Take Advantage of Elijah’s Versatility
Elijah Millsap has got to be the leading contender for the Best Import award, and without a doubt, the athletic forward is one of the best imports this conference. Averaging impressive numbers of 27 points, 11.9 rebounds, 5.6 assists and 2.7 steals a game, the arrival of Paul Millsap’s brother to Petron is one of the main reasons why they are making huge waves this conference. Petron has to take advantage of Elijah’s versatility to be able to take this series from Rain OR Shine. His ability to play almost all positions will be a huge boost for Petron as he can create a lot of match-up advantages for the Blaze Boosters
Feeding The Kraken
It seems like June Mar Fajardo’s favorite team to go against is Rain Or Shine. The 23-year old rookie center enjoys going up against the Extra Rice Inc. And it seems like he brings his A-Game against Beau Belga and JR Quiñahan. Against Ginebra in the quarterfinals, Petron took advantage of giving Fajardo the ball inside as he made minced meat of Dior Lowhorn’s defense and scored 20 points and made nine out of his 10 shots. His size will be a huge advantage for the Blaze Boosters going up against a relatively smaller frontline of the Elasto Painters.
Play It Tough and Physical
Petron was kind of soft before this conference started but with the addition of Doug Kramer and the rejuvenated game of Chris Lutz and Ronald Tubid in the Governors’ Cup, the Blaze Boosters showed that they can play tough and physical. Going against a very physical Rain Or Shine squad, it is very important for Petron to never show any signs of weaknesses and match up the intensity of the Elasto Painters.
Defense! Defense! Defense!
As the old basketball cliché goes, “Defense wins Championships” and Petron has shown how great of a defensive squad they are this conference. They’ve shown how suffocating their defense can be and made a lot of high scoring imports bleed for their points when they faced Petron. In their eliminations round meeting against Rain Or Shine, Petron played tremendous defense all game long that gave them multiple possessions. This is what they have to show against the Elasto Painters, STIFLING DEFENSE. Enough said, when Petron puts the lock on the defensive end of the game, it is going to be a nightmare for Rain Or Shine
Still Hungry, Stay Humble
The 8-1 win-loss card in the eliminations and their victory over Ginebra doesn’t mean anything. They still have a lot of things to prove and they still haven’t redeemed themselves yet. Their willingness to put an end to all the drama that has happened in the past will be one great factor for Petron to play inspired basketball against the defending champions. To be the best, you have to beat the best.
- Ellijah Milllsap versus Rain Or Shine’s Defenders – The Elasto Painters’ defenders have made PBA superstars look like mere mortals; you can ask James Yap about it. Elijah Millsap will be one marked man in this series and he will have his hands full of wing defenders that will try to stop him like Gabe Norwood, Ryan Araña and Ronnie Matias. For sure, they will play rough and physical defense against him but Elijah Millsap’s versatility is going to be big as he goes up against these gritty Rain Or Shine defenders.
- Team KraKra versus Extra Rice Inc. – June Mar Fajardo and Doug Kramer are both in for a tough battle inside against Belga and Quiñahan. The Kraken and Kramer need to their bodies to be ready for a highly physical rumble down low. This match-up of frontlines will be one of the determining factors in this series.
- Gee Abanilla versus Yeng Guiao – the student meets his mentor for the first time in a series. Gee Abanilla was Yeng’s lead assistant coach for a long period of time. Can Gee outsmart the man that has taught him a lot in the world of basketball? Or will Yeng Guiao take him to school and outwit his former student? This is going to be an interesting battle at the sidelines.
Petron’s early success in this conference does not rely on Elijah Millsap alone, the locals’ sterling play has been great so far and this is going to be the X-Factor. As long as Arwind Santos plays his natural game of being the team’s number one role player and as long as Alex Cabagnot runs the plays and tries not to do too much and as long as Marcio Lassiter, Chris Lutz, Chico Lanete and the rest of the squad do their roles, the Blaze Boosters will win this series and march on to the Finals.
No bias aside, this series is gonna go Petron’s way. It’s going to be a 3-1 series win for the Blaze Boosters.