Rain or Shine’s hard-defending locals clamped down hard on Michael Dunigan in the fourth quarter and the Elasto Painters roared to a 94-83 victory over Air21 last night and a piece of the PBA Commissioner’s Cup lead at Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay.
The Painters dropped a 19-4 run at the start of the last period with their import, Bruno Sundov, riding the bench and turned a 63-64 deficit into an 82-68 lead that sent Rain or Shine on the way to a tie with idle Alaska at 8-3.
Sundov again had to ride the bench during the most crucial moments because of foul trouble but Rain or Shine’s solid local crew responded with aplomb by taking care of business on both ends that eventually snapped the Express’ four-game winning streak.
A double-teaming defense every time Dunigan touched the ball resulted in the Air21 import shooting just two points in the fourth quarter. His only attempt from the field in that stretch was a converted alley-oop pass from Mark Isip which made it 79-92 with just 1:51 left.
“I was a little worried when Bruno fell into the same pattern of fouling early. We had to sit him for a prolonged period,” Rain or Shine coach Yeng Guiao said after sitting Sundov from 4:15 in the third up to the 4:33 mark of the fourth.
“It was very difficult to match up with their import, but the locals held their own. We were able to defend their import by helping each other out,” he continued. “They held their own for several minutes, when Bruno returned, I thought it was under control already.”
Sundov scored 18 of his 23 points in the first two periods but Jeff Chan and Ryan Araña stepped up in the second half when the Painters needed some firepower as the two lefthanders scored a combined 25 of Rain or Shine’s 49 points in the final two frames.
Dunigan still paced the Express, now 5-6 overall, with 34 points and 15 rebounds that went with six assists, but he was effectively taken out of his comfort zone in the fourth by burly Beau Belga.
Rain or Shine and Alaska clash for the No. 1 spot on Friday, and Guiao believes that the winner of that game will more or less clinch No. 2 for the first round of the playoffs which would mean a twice-to-beat advantage against the No. 7 team in the quarterfinals.
“Not really this high,” Guiao replied when asked if he foresaw his squad battling for a top two spot at this stage of the eliminations. “But we knew that we are semifinal contenders. Not really expecting to be 1-2. This is a pleasant surprise for us.”
The Rain or Shine defense also didn’t give any quarters on Air21’s locals, with only KG Canaleta finishing in twin digits with 12.
Starting Air21 guard Mike Cortez was starved to just six points and five assists in 33 minutes and Wynne Arboleda had just five in 27.
RAIN OR SHINE 94—Sundov 23, Chan 16, Arana 13, Tiu 8, Cruz 8, Rodriguez 8, Lee 7, Quinahan 5, Norwood 2, Belga 2, Ibanes 2, Matias 0, Jaime 0, Tang 0.
AIR21 83—Dunigan 34, Canaleta 12, Menor 7, Omolon 7, Cortez 6, Arboleda 5, Wilson 4, Ritualo 4, Sena 2, Isip 2, Baclao 0, Custodio 0.
Quarters: 18-18, 45-38, 63-64, 94-83