By TITO S. TALAO
Game Today (Smart Araneta)
3:30 p.m. – Leo Awards
5 p.m. – San Mig Super Coffee vs Rain or Shine
Manila, Philippines – Two words why the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters continue to be in the hunt for the PBA PLDT Home Telpad Governors Cup championship: Arizona Reid.
And two words why the San Mig Super Coffee Mixers’ quest for the Grand Slam could be in serious jeopardy: Marqus Blakely.
Where these two imports lead them is where their teams will go in Game Three today. Action is set at 5 p.m. after the 3:30 p.m. Leo Awards.
The Mixers and the E-Painters gun for a critical 2-1 lead in the best-of-5 Finals this afternoon at the Smart Araneta Coliseum, with the two reinforcements, starkly contrasting in temperament and style, expected to play crucial roles in charting their respective team’s destiny.
So far, it has been Reid delivering magnificently for Rain or Shine, hitting three free throws late in the disputed Game One which nearly saved the E-Painters, and then burying a cold-blooded 3-point shot from top-of-the-key over Marc Pingris in overtime to secure Game Two, 89-87, and tie the series.
Named Best Import – his second such award – before Game Two, Reid played 45 minutes and scored 29 points, including that dagger of a 3 with 6.7 seconds remaining that erased San Mig’s 87-86 lead.
He also grabbed 17 rebounds and issued 4 assists, providing the fire that lit up the E-Painters from within even after James Yap again took control of the game in the extra period.
Reid’s 29-point performance complemented his 35-point blast in Game One, where he went 11 of 17 from the line and hauled down 12 rebounds in 37 minutes.
Yap, who had 9 of San Mig’s last 13 points in their 104-101 victory in the opener last Tuesday, accounted for all of the Mixers’ 7 points in overtime and seemed fated to again turn things around for the Mixers in Game Two had Blakely not intervened.
Blakely, who just had 8 shots in Game One and finished with 13 points, along with two important charities, 14 rebounds and 5 fouls, took the inbounds pass in Game Two after Reid had drilled in his 3, dribbled away 2 of the remaining 3 seconds before taking a shot that was way off.
He had 14 quiet points and 14 sleeper rebounds and was scoreless in the fourth quarter and in overtime.
“That’s the reason he’s best import,” said RoS coach Yeng Guiao of Reid. “He wants the ball at crunch time. He carried us on his shoulders in the semis, and he’s carrying us right now.”
Blakely has been carrying no such load, leaving Yap, Pingris and the local San Mig players to lift much of the burden of their Grand Slam aspirations themselves.
“We didn’t execute well in the end game,” said San Mig coach Tim Cone. “We had our chance. Now it’s all even.”
This shouldn’t come as a surprise to Cone, especially with Blakely not even close to executing San Mig’s plays.
Meanwhile, the 39th season’s Most Valuable Player will be announced today during the annual Leo Awards.
Also up for grabs are membership to the Mythical Selection, Rookie of the Year, Most Improved Player, All-Defensive Team and the Sportsmanship Award.
San Miguel Beer’s June Mar Fajardo, the Commissioner’s Cup Best Player of the Conference (BPC), leads the MVP derby with 37.2 statistical points, followed by Air21’s Asi Taulava (31.6), Talk ‘N Text’s Jayson Castro, the Philippine Cup BPC (31.2), and Tropang Texters teammate and Governors’ Cup BPC Ranidel de Ocampo (29.9).
The 6-foot-10 Fajardo is also nominated for Most Improved Player, along with Meralco’s Cliff Hodge and Air21’s Joseph Yeo, while Barangay Ginebra San Miguel’s Greg Slaughter appears to be a runaway winner for Rookie of the Year with 30.7 SPs to San Mig Super Coffee’s Ian Sangalang (19.3).