No rest for the weary | Inquirer Sports

No rest for the weary

Magnolia plays 11th game in over five weeks, taking on well-rested Rain or Shine as PH Cup semis unwraps
/ 05:45 AM April 12, 2019

Photo by Tristan Tamayo/INQUIRER.net

There’s no doubt that Rain or Shine has the fresher legs coming into this long semifinal series.

But what can those do against the team playing the best basketball in the PBA Philippine Cup the last five weeks?

Rustiness could be an issue for the well-rested Elasto Painters when they clash with the weary—yet very determined—Magnolia Hotshots at the start of their best-of-seven Final Four series on Friday, which will highlight an interesting matchup of contrasts as far as schedules in that span go.

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Tip-off is at 7 p.m. at Smart Araneta Coliseum in Cubao with the Hotshots to play their 11th game since March 6—and would be playing every other day from hereon to shoot for four wins and make it to the Finals.

On the other hand, Rain or Shine has gone 2-1 in that very same span, and, coming into this game also having all the time to prepare is a plus coaching staff led by Caloy Garcia should be able to exploit.

While Magnolia will only have less than 48 hours to regroup after bundling out Barangay Ginebra in Game 3 of their quarterfinal series on Wednesday, the Hotshots are enjoying a level of cohesion that coach Chito Victolero points to as the biggest factor in their campaign.

“It has been about team effort,” he said shortly after disposing of the Gin Kings, 85-72. “The chemistry has been commendable. We’re enjoying every possession.”

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Paul Lee, who was virtually unstoppable in Game 3 and who would want to win his first all-Filipino crown, echoed his coach’s view: “We may not be the most talented team, but I think in terms of chemistry, we’re No. 1.”

It wasn’t also lost on Garcia how well Magnolia handled Ginebra, which the Hotshots held below 80 points in each of the last two games of the quarterfinals.

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“They did a good job dictating the tempo against Barangay Ginebra,” Garcia told the Inquirer on Thursday. “If we can limit our errors, I think we could pull off a win.”

And while the Magnolia swept Rain or Shine the last time they met in a series,

Victolero is again trying to downplay his chances—and motivating his charges—by saying that they are the underdogs here.

“Again, we’re the underdogs. We have a very tough team coming up. They’re the No. 2 team, [after all].”

But that certainly does not seem to be the case the way he has made the Hotshots play, as they have gone 7-3 in that 10-game span with victories over some of the toughest teams out there.

Top-ranked Phoenix Pulse and powerhouse San Miguel Beer are in the other semifinal pairing, with that series to start on Saturday at Mall of Asia Arena.

The Fuel Masters have also gotten a lot of rest and the Beermen, shooting to extend their unprecedented reign here to five years, basically took the same path as that of the Hotshots, though not as hectic.

Lee was the game’s Best Player on Wednesday, hitting a big triple in the stretch just as the Hotshots seemed ready to implode after seeing a 20-point lead dwindle down to nine.

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The Painters, who are also seeking to win a first all-Filipino title, have the defensive tools to shut down Lee, and the size to go mano-a-mano underneath with the Hotshots.

TAGS: Basketball, PBA Philippine Cup, Rain or Shine

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