Merry Christmas, Rain or Shine fans!
The Rain or Shine Elasto Painters brought the series to a draw after defeating the Alaska Aces, 98-91, on Christmas game day. Knowing the fighting spirit of the Painters, it’s not surprising to see them retaliate after being clobbered in the previous match. The Aces had it all going for them until late in the third quarter when ROS started connecting better from the outside, led by Jeff Chan who finished with 25 points on 5-of-10 three-point shooting, five rebounds, and three assists.
Fourth quarter surge
The Negros Sniper opened the final frame with a booming trey that cut the Aces’ lead to four points from as much as eleven. And that’s just the first of four triples that Rain or Shine dropped in that quarter (13 in total, compared to Alaska’s four). It’s really their outside shooting that will bail ROS out in this series. They just don’t have the manpower to compete at the post. Last game, it was Eric Menk who exploited the interior defense of the Painters. This time, it was Sonny Thoss. He was having an excellent outing with 25 markers and 12 boards before he fouled out.
It looked like the Aces could once again pull away due to Rain or Shine’s sloppy ballhandling and passing (including a couple of inbound errors), but an and-one play from Paul Lee and a four-point play from JR Quinahan and Chan brought it to 80-all with seven and a half minutes remaining. Rain or Shine’s pressure defense improved and caused the Aces to miss their shots. It was neck-and-neck until Gabe Norwood caught fire late and drilled crucial jumpers that gave ROS some cushion.
1. Chris Tiu‘s back-to-back triples – Chris Tiu has only played three games this conference before last night due to his nagging hamstring injury, but it doesn’t seem like he missed much with the way he steadily contributed in Game 4. His back-to-back triples to end the third quarter kept ROS at bay and were instrumental in their eventual comeback.
2. Sonny Thoss’ graduation – Sonny Thoss had been showing the big men of Rain or Shine who’s boss all-game long, so when he was whistled with his fifth foul, all I could do was wish he’d get called for his sixth. At the 3:51 mark, I got my wish. Norwood attacked Thoss from the baseline and drew the foul that threw him out of the court.
3. Calvin Abueva‘s ejection – I hate to admit that Alaska players getting ejected helped a lot for ROS to grab the win. Abueva was assessed a flagrant foul penalty two late in the fourth after unnecessarily hitting Uyloan. This was a double blow for the Aces considering that Thoss was already out by this time.
4. Jonathan Uyloan’s hustle – Skying high for rebounds, diving to get steals, and risking life for loose balls? Yep. The ever-energetic and most-improved Elasto Painter did all these. His contributions may not always translate into numbers on his statline, but man, you’ve got to appreciate what Jonathan Uyloan brings on the floor every time Coach Yeng fields him in.
It’s only going to get tougher and more physical from hereon. Ang mapikon, talo. Rain or Shine, however, needs more than grit and tibay ng loob to close this series out. I’ve long accepted that they’re not going to outrebound Alaska and beat them inside. What they need to do is push the ball and kill them from the perimeter. The Aces can also be quick and the challenge is for the Elasto Painters to always outrun them and to react faster on defense.