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PBA: Rain or Shine seeks equalizer

Beau Belga and Marc Pingris

Derailed San Mig tries again
by Waylon Galvez

Game Today (Smart Araneta Coliseum)
8 p.m. – Rain or Shine vs San Mig Super Coffee (Game 6)

A giant net filled with red-yellow-blue balloons had been hanging from the ceiling of the Smart-Araneta Coliseum since Sunday.

San Mig Coffee is aiming to let it all drop tonight when the Mixers face resurgent Rain or Shine in Game Six of the 2014 PLDT myDSL Philippine Cup.

While the Mixers are itching to let it all loose, the Elasto Painters are out to prevent that from happening as they would also like to get their chance to do the same thing if they force a seventh game on Friday.

San Mig leads the best-of-seven series, 3-2, and can close it out with a victory for the team’s 11th championship, sixth in an All-Filipino tournament and second straight after it won the Governors’ Cup title last season.

But Rain or Shine apparently has momentum on its side now following a thrilling 81-74 triumph in Game 5 last Sunday.

In the 39-year history of the PBA, only three teams were able to come back and win a seven-game series, and it only happened once in the Finals stage with Ginebra doing it in 1991 First Conference against Shell.

Even after Rain or Shine lost three straight games – 2, 3 and 4 – to fall behind 1-3, coach Yeng Guiao remained very optimistic in saying that the longer the finals series goes, the better it would be for them since his team is relatively fresher than their foes.

In this All-Filipino playoffs, the Mixers have played a total of 15 games, including three in the quarterfinals versus Talk ’N Text and seven in the semifinals opposite Ginebra.

The Painters, on the other hand, have played in only 11 matches, eliminating Globalport with just one game in the quarterfinals and five against Petron Blaze in the semifinals. Rain or Shine also has a deep rotation as it can go with its 14-man unit while San Mig has only rotated up to 10 (of 14) players.

“I don’t know if you call it prophetic,” said Guiao, who is aiming for his seventh league title and first in an all-Filipino conference. “But for us it’s just reasonable or logical, they played more games before they got here to the Finals. We’re hoping they get tired.”

“But the way the series is going, they’re not getting tired… parang mas malakas pa sila. If we’ll rely on them getting tired, we’ll not win this series. We have to win it on merit,” added Guiao.

For Rain or Shine to win Game 6, he’s hoping that his two top offensive players, Jeffrei Chan and Paul Lee, will come up with huge numbers.

Lee averaged 25.5 points in the two losses – Games 3 and 4 – but struggled and scored just eight points in Game 5, while Chan finally found his shooting touch as he scored 24 points in the previous game after averaging just 10.1 points in the first four games.

“We have to believe in ourselves and stay positive. So who knows? A win like this can turn things around in our favor. So we’re just hoping for that. We’ll try to delay or postpone the celebration of San Mig Coffee (in Game 6). Hopefully if we can delay it enough, it becomes our celebration,” said Guiao.

San Mig mentor Tim Cone admitted that exhaustion is starting to slow them down.

“Are we tired? Of course we’re tired. To say that we’re not tired is not fair,” said Cone, who is eyeing to win his 16th PBA title and third with the San Mig team as he also won the Commissioner’s Cup championship in his first season with B-Meg back in 2012.

“It’s been tough for us, we’ve been fatigued and tired all the way to this playoffs. But there’s still something left in us to keep pushing,” added Cone, who hopes that that two-day off will be enough for his players to recover, particularly Marc Pingris after he sustained an eye injury in Game 4.

Pingris collected 18 points and 15 rebounds in Game 4 despite being listed as doubtful in Game 5, and he is expected to lead San Mig’s attack in Game 6 together with former two-time MVP James Yap, PJ Simon, Mark Barroca, Alex Mallari, Joe deviance, Rafi Reavis, and rookies Ian Sangalang and Justin Melton.