SINCE winning its first PBA title last season, Rain or Shine has done one thing quite well, and that is to tell the world that its championship conquest was no fluke.
But in their quest for a second straight title, there’s one thing the Elasto Painters have so far failed to achieve in the Philippine Cup: Beat Barangay Ginebra.
Though everyone starts from scratch when quarterfinal action in the season-opening conference gets going today, the Gin Kings will enjoy a psychological edge when they lock horns with the Painters at 5:15 p.m. at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Rain or Shine should be favored in the best-of-three series after going 9-5 in the eliminations and finishing as the No. 3 seed, but the two narrow victories by the Kings make it look like Ginebra has the Painters’ numbers.
Ginebra coach Siot Tanquingcen, though, wants to put the elimination round behind.
“We expect a tough series. It’s good that we won our two games versus Rain or Shine, but whatever happened in the past is done and over with,” Tanquingcen said. “This is the playoffs and we’re all back to square one.”
Alaska and Meralco, the fourth and fifth-ranked teams, respectively, start their own race-to-two series later at 7:30 p.m. The Aces and the Bolts split their two elimination-round games.
“With the stakes higher, we know it will be physical, and we are ready for that,” Tanquingcen said.
Rain or Shine, undoubtedly, has become the most physical team in the league since Yeng Guiao took over the squad close to two seasons ago.
And while the Painters can rough it out against anybody, one thing going for them—and something that Ginebra hasn’t seen this season—is former Rookie of the Year Paul Lee.
Lee returned to action last Friday—his first game since late July—as if he never left, firing 16 points that came with six assists and four rebounds in just 20 minutes, assuring Guiao that his best player is back.
“Paul gives us another dimension,” Guiao had said after a 116-101 ripping of Barako Bull.
The 6-foot Lee, Chris Tiu and Gabe comprise one of the best backcourt rotations in the tournament, at par perhaps with that of Ginebra which boasts of Mark Caguioa, rookie Chris Ellis and the rejuvenated Jay-Jay Helterbrand.
The Painters swept the Gin Kings in the quarterfinals of this same tournament last season.