Explosive Rain or Shine finish
After barely missing the Finals in the last Philippine Cup, Rain or Shine seemed lucky enough to squeeze into the quarterfinals of the current Commissioner’s Cup with an injury-hobbled lineup.
And paired against the third-ranked Blackwater Elite, the Elasto Painters, who advanced as No. 6 over the San Miguel Beermen thanks to the Magnolia Hotshots, were given little chance to survive one of two best-of-three series leading to the semifinals that started last Saturday.
True enough, the Painters lost an early 49-37 lead in a rare strong start then trailed by eight at 72-80 with barely two minutes left after a triple by top Blackwater rookie Ray Parks Jr. But Rain or Shine uncorked an unexpected 11-point run at the finish capped by a trey by Rey Nambatac to escape with an 83-80 decision.
Nambatac also completed his own steal in that explosive finish that saw import replacement Carl Montgomery and veteran Gabe Norwood likewise firing threes. A deadly southpaw from Letran drafted in 2017, Nambatac had a career-high 30 points in a 104-81 Rain or Shine rout of Barangay Ginebra earlier in the tournament.
“A lucky win,” said Rain or Shine coach Caloy Garcia, who found an able replacement in Montgomery when original import Denzel Bowles hurt his foot against Magnolia. Former two-time MVP James Yap is also out with a groin injury and crack guard Maverick Ahanmisi remains in sick bay for the Elasto Painters, who finished second in the last Philippine Cup eliminations then had a strong crack at a title slot before losing in seven semifinal games to the Hotshots.
This time, Magnolia’s semifinal bid looked in peril after defending champion and elimination No. 4 Barangay Ginebra turned back its fifth-ranking sister team for the second time in the tournament with an 85-79 win in their own best-of-three duel.
Rain or Shine and Ginebra gun for the clinching second wins tomorrow with the Elasto Painters hoping to advance against the winner of the NorthPort-San Miguel quarterfinal duel and the Gin Kings bidding to arrange a semifinal duel with the TNT KaTropa-Alaska match.
As the top two teams in the eliminations, TNT and NorthPort need just one win over their respective rivals at press time to reach the Final Four.
The semifinals will be a best-of-five series and the title playoffs a best-of-seven affair.
Earlier in the week, the Meralco Bolts upset the reigning Philippine Cup champion Beermen, 95-91, to gain a playoff shot at Alaska for the eighth and last quarterfinal berth. The Aces went on to nail the last berth with an overtime win, 108-103, last Friday behind clutch hits by Chris Banchero and Jeron Teng.