by Tito S. Talao
(Smart Araneta Coliseum)
8 p.m. – Ginebra vs San Mig
Manila, Philippines – The Rain or Shine Elasto Painters chose to keep their minds on Game 4 last night after their coach couldn’t.
Staying in focus through adversity paid handsome dividends as the Elasto Painters weathered the loss of coach Yeng Guiao and top playmaker Paul Lee in beating the Petron Blaze Boosters, 88-83, and taking a 3-1 lead in the PLDT myDSL PBA Philippine Cup semifinals at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Game 5 is on Friday, 8 p.m., also at the Big Dome, with the E-Painters gunning for a seat in the best-of-7 Finals against the winner of the series between San Mig Super Coffee and Barangay Ginebra San Miguel.
Guiao was ejected for the second straight game in this series, getting a second technical with 6:15 left in the third quarter. Lee, meanwhile, sprained his right foot halfway in the second quarter after a freak baseline accident.
In Guiao’s place, assistant coach Caloy Garcia stepped in and steered the E-Painters back from a 60-54 deficit and into the brink of the franchise’s third finals appearance.
“I take my hat off to coach Caloy for not giving up where I gave up,” said Guiao after the game.
Jeff Chan, on the other hand, had 9 points in the third quarter and combined with Ryan Arana in giving ROS a 72-69 edge, while and Beau Belga, saddled with foul trouble early, came off the bench and buried a deep right 3-pointer with two minutes left to make it 87-82 lead.
Behind backup guard TY Tang, the Elasto Painters kept the halftime close despite Lee suffering a right ankle sprain after hitting the goal post cushion on a shot block try on Chris Ross with 7:14 left in the second quarter.
Petron took the half, 50-48, after a brief exchange of leads highlighted by three-pointers from ROS’ Tang and Gabe Norwood.
June Mar Fajardo had 13 points and Chris Lutz 10 on 3 of 4 three-point shooting for Petron during the first half. Beau Belga and Jeff Chan combined were 0 for 5 combined for ROS.
Guiao drew a technical early in the second for using profane language and later admonished Beau Belga for getting a technical for resenting his fourth foul.
Meanwhile, San Mig Super Coffee guns for a 3-1 lead over Barangay Ginebra San Miguel in their series tomorrow, 8 p.m., at the Big Dome, with the Kings facing a revitalized opponent.
The Mixers reduced the Kings to a bunch of self-centered individuals who refused to share the ball in a 97-89 victory in Game 3 last Sunday. That erased the ignominy of their 93-64 debacle in Game 2 and exposed the vulnerability of tall but sluggish Ginebra to relentlessly probing playmakers who run their defenders to the ground and work their wonders around the perimeter.
Ginebra’s impatience with whatever passed up for its offense was ruthlessly exploited by methodical San Mig, which made every possession count with excellent 24-second clock management and judicious shot choice, especially in the fourth quarter.
Ato Agustin, the Kings coach, admitted their lapses and vowed to make the necessary adjustments. It remains to be seen though whether the extra day would be enough to fix what has been a perennial flaw in Ginebra’s game for much of the conference: breaking down after the first or second pass.