by Tito S. Talao
Game Today (Mall of Asia Arena)
3:30 p.m. – Rain or Shine vs Petron
Rain or Shine seeks to stand side-by-side with history against Petron Blaze when they clash in Game 3 of the PLDT myDSL PBA Philippine Cup semifinals today at the Mall of Asia Arena.
No PBA team has come back from a 0-3 deficit in a best-of-7 series and the 2-0 Elasto Painters intend to make sure nobody does. At least not when they are two wins away from an improbable sweep of the powerhouse Boosters and from a most probable seat in the Finals, another best-of-7 affair.
Also, out of 40 teams that won the first two games of a seven-game playoffs, 34 went on to complete the job.
Game 2 of the other semis between San Mig Super Coffee and Barangay Ginebra San Miguel was ongoing at presstime, with the Mixers holding a 1-0 lead.
Rain or Shine, which ousted Globalport in the quarterfinals, has yet to lose in its past 10 games, fueling its amazing run with an abundance of speed, outside shooting and solid defense.
Taking the opener of the semis, 103-95, the E-Painters erected walls around Petron center June Mar Fajardo and appeared confident Game 2 wouldn’t be any different.
But the 6-foot-10 Fajardo burst out of the cage early in the next game and led Petron to several double-digit spreads, including a 13-point advantage in the fourth quarter that gave the appearance of a 1-1 tie.
Even Yeng Guiao, the Rain or Shine coach, wasn’t prepared for what happened next, however.
“I thought it was a lost game,” Guiao said.
From the grave, the Elasto Painters came back in a hail of baskets, overcoming the deficit and leaving the Boosters to ponder their fate, 103-94. “The boys just refused to lose,” Guiao said. “It’s a testament to their desire to win and their mental toughness.”
Sadly, it was something that couldn’t be said of Fajardo.
Banged around for most of the game, Fajardo lost grip on his temper, committing several reaction fouls that got him into trouble and then engaging Rain or Shine forward Larry Rodriguez in a shoving match and a staredown in the fourth quarter.
So riled up was Fajardo at one point that he brushed off teammate Doug Kramer who was restraining him from going after Rodriguez. It was a scene reminiscent of the ugly incident last year involving former Petron import Renaldo Balkman who resented being pacified during an outburst against officiating and choked teammate Arwind Santos, leading to Balkman getting banned from the PBA.
Fajardo came no close to doing that, but some anxious moments existed nonetheless.
Game 3, ultimately, could decide the outcome of the series.
“This could be the hardest game for both teams,” said Guiao. “A 3-0 lead is the backbreaker, so we are aiming to do that.”
Beau Belga, the Rain or Shine center, bared they plan to keep the physical pressure on Fajardo and the rest of the Boosters, while playmaker Paul Lee hopes their bench could continue to provide fresh ammunition for their furious running game.