An exact fit, Rakocevic vows to help Magnolia overcome playoff heartaches
Nick Rakocevic showed why Magnolia sang plenty of praises before his impressive opening act in the PBA on Wednesday.
And he isn’t done yet.
The American-born Serbian who finished with 45 points and 25 rebounds in the 100-92 win over the Terrafirma Dyip is eager to prove that throughout the PBA Commissioner’s Cup that he and the Hotshots are a match made in heaven.
“I’m here to do whatever coach needs me to do,” the 6-foot-10 Rakocevic said after the game held at Mall of Asia Arena that kicked off Magnolia’s campaign in the midseason conference.
“If that’s to go out there and score, I’ll go out there and score. If that’s to go out there and play defense, whatever he feels like I need to do or the team needs to do, that’s what I’m gonna do,” he added.
Magnolia coach Chito Victolero was glad that Rakocevic did more than expected, and he hopes the big man could be a major piece in the puzzle as Magnolia tries to finally get to the top following recent playoff setbacks.
“He plays on both ends of the floor, he contributes to our defensive scheme and he contributes to our offense,” said Victolero. “He’s very aggressive and we like his activity level.”
But Victolero feels there’s more room for improvement after the Hotshots squandered a big lead when the Dyip came back in the fourth and even took the lead.
“A win is a win, but we need to improve, especially against teams that will execute well,” Victolero said with Magnolia set to face big league rookie coach Aldin Ayo and Converge.
Rakocevic’s counterpart Lester Prosper finished with 41 points but Terrafirma suffered an 18th straight loss, now tied for second longest in league history.
Prosper and Juami Tiongson sparked the Dyip’s rally from 15 down and took the lead twice in the payoff period.
But a three-pointer by Paul Lee put Magnolia ahead, 94-92, before Rakocevic scored the team’s last two baskets on the way to victory.
In the second game, Rain or Shine spoiled Barangay Ginebra’s debut in a big way and prevailed 93-71 for Yeng Guiao’s first win since returning as Elasto Painters coach.
Steve Taylor Jr. scored 21 points and added 10 rebounds and five assists to lead a stunning Rain or Shine attack that caught the talented Ginebra side flat footed.
“We really caught a big fish,” said Guiao. “But it’s hard to catch them on a bad night. Maybe we played well, but maybe because they played badly also.”
The Elasto Painters improved to 1-1, bouncing back from Friday’s 96-90 loss to Guiao’s former team, the NLEX Road Warriors, last Friday.
Ginebra’s defeat came despite fielding in new acquisition Jamie Malonzo, who posted 14 points, eight rebounds, three assists and three blocks.
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