The Rain or Shine Elasto Painters secured the first of two automatic semi-finals seats after defeating Barangay Ginebra San Miguel Kings, 100-90. This extended their winning streak to seven and propelled them to the top of the standings with a 9-2 record.
ROS made a blistering run in the early goings, shooting an impressive 14-of-19 from the field (effective field goal percentage of 84.2), while only allowing Ginebra to shoot 4-of-15. So many times they caught the defense of the Kings sleeping and reacting too late. This resulted to four and-one opportunities in the first quarter alone, including back-to-back acrobatic shots courtesy of Jireh Ibanes. This guy scored seven of his nine markers in the opening frame and helped in providing energy on the floor and dictating the tempo of the game for the Painters.
Ginebra made a living out of the charity stripe, earning 12 of their 22 first canto points from the line, as foul trouble hounded all the big men of Rain or Shine. ROS also gave away too many freebies in the third when they found themselves in the penalty situation with still seven minutes remaining. This boosted the Kings’ never-say-die rally in the payback period that brought them within eight points after trailing by as much as 23.
Beau Belga stopped the bleeding as he made a 7-0 run all by himself, which silenced the Kings and ensured the Elasto Painters’ victory.
BIG GAME FOR BIG BEAU
In that crucial stretch midway through the fourth when Ginebra was catching fire, Rain or Shine had been misfiring from beyond the arc. Good thing Beau Belga was there to take matters into his own hands. He drained his fourth triple of the night, sunk two freebies, stole the ball from halfcourt and ran all the way to the hoop for a layup to give ROS a 15-point cushion. Big Beau, albeit plagued with fouls, was also mainly responsible in making seven-footer Greg Slaughter struggle in the post. He finished with season-high 21 points (4-of-6 from downtown), five rebounds, two assists, and a steal.
TOO FAST, TOO FURIOUS
Rain or Shine imposed a quick pace from the very start and never let up until the end. The Gin Kings could not keep up with the speed of the Painters, who ran the break every chance they got – whether off turnovers, misses, or made baskets. They’ve mastered the art of recognizing fastbreak opportunities (and making those lovely outlet passes). ROS scored 18 fastbreak buckets, compared to Ginebra’s eight.
It’s also remarkable how Rain or Shine moved the leather consistently well in this match, assisting 60 percent of their possessions. You can probably count in one hand the number of miscues they committed while sharing the ball, which shows their familiarity with their teammates and the system that they’re running. Paul Lee and Jon Uyloan dished a combined total of 11 dimes, while rookie and last game’s hero Jericho Cruz added three. They outperformed the Kings who happen to be number one in the league in terms of assist rate.
QUICK RESPONSE DEFENSE
The defense of Rain or Shine was unrelenting in this game. They lost the offensive rebounding battle (8 to 17) not only because the Ginebra towers were difficult to box out, but also because they prioritized running to the other end to set up their defense. The Painters’ frontline who clearly had height disadvantage had some trouble guarding the paint without fouling. The rest of the team was quick to adjust by providing good help defense. I particularly like how Ibanes sneaks from the weakside to rattle unsuspecting opponents who are on their way to the hole.
Ginebra’s defense, on the other hand, was slow to react to the Elasto Painters’ brand of play. They couldn’t complete their late rally because they were already in too deep of a hole to be able to come back. They weren’t able to capitalize on their size as ROS always found ways to either attack or fire from the perimeter.
Will the Elasto Painters finally bring home the Philippine Cup trophy that has eluded them in the past seasons? Hopefully they get to use the long break to their advantage by improving on their weaknesses and recovering from fatigue and injuries. The momentum of the seven-game win streak may die down, but maybe that’s a good thing so they won’t be overconfident by the time the semis start.
Featured image courtesy of Czeasar Dancel, Yahoo PH