PBA: San Miguel gets Game 1, but Rain or Shine delivers on vow
NO WALK IN THE PARK

PBA: San Miguel gets Game 1, but Rain or Shine delivers on vow

June Mar Fajardo leads San Miguel past Rain or Shine for a 1-0 lead in the PBA Philippine Cup semifinals.

June Mar Fajardo leads San Miguel past Rain or Shine for a 1-0 lead in the PBA Philippine Cup semifinals. –MARLO CUETO/INQUIRER.net

San Miguel Beer’s victory to open the PBA Philippine Cup semifinals on Friday was a validation of its label as heavy favorites to progress past underdog Rain or Shine.

But the Beermen’s 101-98 win at Mall of Asia Arena also showcased the promise the Elastopainters made before the best-of-seven series began of making things difficult for the reigning champions.

“If they didn’t deserve to be here [in the semifinals], they would have not been here,” said coach Jorge Gallent, giving his flowers to the Rain or Shine side that made things uncomfortable for San Miguel throughout the contest.

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READ: PBA: San Miguel stops Beau Belga when it mattered most in Game 1

In the end, however, San Miguel’s depth and experience prevailed, with June Mar Fajardo producing yet another double-double, the 12th of this conference, in another lead role.

Still there’s some housecleaning Gallent and the Beermen must do to make sure the Elastopainters won’t be given opportunities to draw level in Sunday’s Game 2 at the same venue.

One of those was a stat that bothered Gallent.

“Sixteen turnovers is a lot,” he said. “We have to minimize that and take care of the ball. We can’t allow Rain or Shine to just run, run and run. We can’t give them easy baskets because in the end, we will have a hard time.”

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READ: PBA: Rain or Shine won’t make things easy for San Miguel

Fajardo’s 23 points, 11 rebounds, five assists and three blocks was another reason to laud the seven-time Most Valuable Player as perhaps the new frontrunner for the conference’s Best Player of the Conference.

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Freewheeling offense

That performance made life difficult for a Rain or Shine frontline that could only lean on rookie Keith Datu, Santi Santillan and Beau Belga to contain Fajardo.

But Rain or Shine’s freewheeling offense that allows even the bigs to shoot from the perimeter is also making things hard for Fajardo, who saw the same schemes when San Miguel avoided the ambitious upset bid of Terrafirma in the quarterfinals.

Belga knocked down four triples for Rain or Shine, which kept it close all throughout and even led by two in the third.

A loaded lineup allowed Fajardo to get plenty of help, namely reserves Don Trollano and Terrence Romeo plus veterans Marcio Lassiter and Chris Ross, whose two steals late allowed San Miguel to sustain its lead.

The Beermen also forced the Elastopainters to go for a low-percentage attempt in the closing seconds, when Andrei Caracut hoisted a long three from the logo which had a good line but hit the front rim.

Friday’s escape act, however, may serve as another warning for the Beermen moving forward.

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“Rain or Shine is a good team,” said Gallent. “They’re a well-balanced team and it’s a well-coached team.”

TAGS: PBA Philippine Cup, Rain or Shine, San Miguel Beer

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