Talk ’n Text’s four-game sweep of Rain or Shine to win its third straight Philippine Cup title was not only a display of individual and team strength but a testament to the importance of setting the pace of the game in your favor. An unforgiving defensive stance and excellent ball movement that created countless openings allowed TNT to dictate the mood of the series from start to the eventual sweep.
Without question, the talent equation favored TNT. Rain or Shine coach Yeng Guiao kiddingly referred to his crew as barya-barya lang (just loose change) before the series started in a clear acknowledgement of the talent edge of TNT. Try going up against Kelly Williams, Ranidel De Ocampo, Jason Castro, Ryan Reyes, Jason Dillinger, Larry Fonacier, Jimmy Alapag and Ali Peek. Like in most great teams, you could actually form two strong starting fives with them.
But Guiao knew that if his gutsy crew could play strong together maybe they had a chance against TNT. They did it against Ginebra and San Mig Coffee, a team they also vanquished last year en route to their first franchise crown. Maybe they could do what Alaska did. The Aces’ deliberate half-court basketball pace disrupted the torrid running game of the Tropang Texters. TNT eventually won the composure battle and marched on to defend their crown against Rain or Shine.
However, the Elasto Painters could not find the coating in the finals that could stop Talk ’N Text. They could not stay in step with the TNT pace and hit the big shots they needed to rally or establish their offensive rhythm. The sticky TNT defense did not allow easy looks at the basket and forced Rain or Shine into hurried attempts.
The Rain or Shine game is anchored on the emotion of their big three-point shots delivered by Jeff Chan, Paul Lee, Chris Tiu and even from their bigs like Beau Belga, JR Quiñahan, Larry Rodriguez and Ronnie Matias. When their treys explode, their spirits are buoyed up and their running game is fueled.
But Rain or Shine hit only 19 percent (16 of 81) of their attempted threes in the series: 4 of 21 in Game One, 6 of 23 in Game Two, 4 of 22 in Game Three and 2 of 17 in Game Four. With their outside shooting failing to deliver (like in Game 3 when they could not match Jimmy Alapag’s torrid shooting spree), their rhythm could not match the endless waves of TNT attacks. Even when the Elasto Painters would close the gap with two-point connections, there were no rainbow shots to engineer a breakaway. Some success from beyond the arc would have neutralized the Tropang Texers blitzkrieg.
The Elasto Painters should still hold their heads up high by making it to their second straight finals. From a team that started as an also-ran to becoming a contender and to finally becoming a two-time finalist is quite an achievement. Being swept is never an easy pill to swallow but it’s all part of the possibilities of basketball when you face a truly strong team.
An All-Filipino crown (which is still the more familiar name of this tournament) is still in the horizon for Guiao and this crew that has an army of young legs and hunger to win this prestigious conference. Maybe in the future their rainbow shooting will not forsake them.