Yap powers Rain or Shine
James Yap was bound to have a game as explosive as this one, and his ability to sustain it will define Rain or Shine’s bid to successfully defend a title for the first time in its PBA existence.
Yap played his finest offensive game in three seasons and led Rain or Shine to a 113-105 nipping of NLEX as its bid to win the Commissioner’s Cup back-to-back got off to a solid start Friday night at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Five straight points during the most critical stretch of the endgame capped off a 26-point night for Yap, who played with renewed bounce as the former two-time MVP while with Purefoods/Star gave a glimpse of things that could come after rededicating himself in the off-season.
“It’s just nice to see James Yap back,” Rain or Shine coach Caloy Garcia said. “I just hope that he stays healthy.”
Rain or Shine acquired Yap in a trade that sent original cornerstone Paul Lee to the Hotshots in the offseason.
Yap played with MVP-like swagger and later said that it was the result of refocusing himself after the Elasto Painters exited in the first round of the Philippine Cup playoffs.
“I’m not getting any younger and I have to watch out for my body,” he said. “I really prepared hard for this game, for this conference.”
Shawn Taggert looked like a good import fit for the Painters, firing 23 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. The comebacking Raymond Almazan fired 18 and Jeff Chan 12 for Rain or Shine.
Despite losing, the Road Warriors looked a far better team than the one that finished last in the Philippine Cup, and Wayne Chism had a lot to do with that after winding up with 27 points and 21 rebounds.
“Everyone came out to play, and that is the part of our game where we have to be consistent on,” Garcia added.
With someone big again plugging its hole in the middle, Meralco got off to a good start and dismantled Mahindra, 94-86, in the first game.
Coach Norman Black admitted import Alex Stepheson is still out of shape but he came through with 21 rebounds and 11 points even as Meralco got a lot of fire from its locals.
“We had contributions from a lot of [local] guys,” Black said after Baser Amer scored 19 points and led three locals in twin digits.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.