Painters seek PBA redemption
Six years after a crushing 4-0 sweep courtesy of Talk ‘N Text in its first Philippine Cup finals appearance, Rain or Shine is making another strong bid to rule the all-Filipino tournament ushering in the 44th season of the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA).
With a leading 7-1, win-loss record, the Elasto Painters will be the obvious favorites when they finally face the KaTropa, who are running sixth with a 3-3 slate, on the third playing day of the resumption of hostilities on March 3 after the Gilas Pilipinas break.
It won’t be a romp for Rain or Shine for sure, but with the way the Painters have won five in a row after an unexpected foldup against lowly Blackwater in their third game this season, TNT needs to come up with its best game so far to prevail.
Nothing best illustrates the toughness of the Painters than in their last two games when they downed the hitherto undefeated Phoenix Pulse Fuel Masters in overtime, 98-94, then completed a sort of a Grand Slam conquest of the three powerhouse San Miguel teams in the tournament by nipping 2018 Governors’ Cup champion Magnolia, 75-74.
James Yap, a two-time league Most Valuable Player still showing flashes of his old scoring form, was a bust against Phoenix with just two points after averaging 16 in six games. But five Painters combined for 67 that proved enough to derail the Fuel Masters’ bid for a sixth straight win.
Yap regained his shooting touch against the Hotshots with his three-point play with 3.2 seconds deciding the contest. He finished with 18 points in sending down the Hotshots to a 0-3 start.
Balanced scoring had also lifted Rain or Shine past Commissioner’s Cup champion Barangay Ginebra (83-80) while Yap produced his season-high 21 points in a 108-98 win over four-time defending champion San Miguel Beer.
“Everybody is contributing because now they all get a chance to score,” said coach Caloy Garcia of the Painters, who have already scored in the 2011-2012 Governors’ Cup and the 2015-2016 Commissioner’s Cup, both under Yeng Guiao.
Assured of a quarterfinal slot, the Painters are expected to secure a top two slot and a twice-to-beat bonus with a win over Columbian Dyip (2-4) on March 6. Their last assignment is against the Meralco Bolts (2-3) on March 15.
While Phoenix (5-1) remains in contention for the other quarterfinal bonus, the Fuel Masters face a tough five-game schedule that include matches against Magnolia on March 6, Ginebra on March 10 and SMB on March 16.
SMB still has a shot at the No. 2 quarterfinal berth at 4-3 along with Ginebra (3-2) and TNT.
The league is on a 13-day break and will resume on Feb. 27 as Gilas Pilipinas prepares for the sixth and final window of qualifying for the 2019 Fiba World Cup in China.
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