Game Today (Mall of Asia Arena)
7 p.m. – Rain or Shine vs Alaska
Game Tomorrow (Mall of Asia Arena)
7 p.m. – San Miguel Beer vs Talk ’N Text
Manila, Philippines – Since the Governors’ Cup of the previous conference and up to the elimination round of the ongoing PBA Philippine Cup, Rain or Shine has found success against Alaska in their last three matches.
On that basis, Rain or Shine coach Yeng Guiao is optimistic the Elasto Painters know how to handle a team like the Aces as they start their best-of-seven semifinal series today at the Mall of Asia Arena.
“We have a pretty good idea on how to play Alaska,” said Guiao.
Game 1 of their Final Four playoffs is set at 7 p.m. The other semifinals affair between top seed San Miguel Beer and Talk ’N Text will start tomorrow also at the MOA Arena.
This is the second straight time that Rain or Shine and Alaska will face-off in the semifinals as the E-Painters’ won over the Aces in a thrilling five-game series during the Governors’ Cup last season.
In that semis collision, Alaska took a 2-1 lead only to lose back-to-back games. ROS also won its first meeting this conference with Alaska (98-95) last Dec. 5 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The two squads took different routes to get to this stage of the tournament.
Rain or Shine finished tied for the best record at 9-2 with SMB at the end of eliminations, which gave the two teams outright semifinal berths in this all-Filipino conference.
The last time ROS played was Dec. 7 when it edged Barangay Ginebra San Miguel (100-90), thus giving Guiao’s team a 10-day break although the team continued with its practice session the past eight days to prepare for the semifinals.
“We are very much ready,” said Guiao. “I don’t think we‘ll be affected by the long break. In fact, we feel it’s given us a much-needed rest to refresh us for the grueling series ahead.”
Rain or Shine, however, will still come in minus one key player in rookie guard Jericho Cruz, who is out for the conference after he had surgery to repair a fractured metatarsal bone (finger) on his left foot.
The former Adamson stalwart averaged eight points per game this conference and was instrumental in the team’s win opposite Alaska as he recorded a career-best 16 points with six rebounds, four assists and three steals.
Guiao said they will miss Cruz but he knows his Rain or Shine team thrives even with an undermanned roster, and he is ready to go the distance against Alaska to make the Finals.
“Alaska has had great success with their new approach to the game. It’s going to be an exciting series, which can go seven games,” said Guiao, whose team has made the title series of the Philippine Cup the last two seasons.
Alaska, on the other hand, arranged a series with ROS by beating North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) as – with a twice-to-beat advantage. It posted an 82-78 win last Thursday and then eliminated Meralco in a do-or-die match, 87-69, last Sunday.
Although his team lost to Rain or Shine in the elimination round, plus the series during the Governors’ Cup, Alaska coach Alex Compton still believes the Aces have what it takes to compete and be successful.
But for them to win against ROS, Compton said they have to be near perfect with their execution on both ends.
“We’ll have to come up with a bunch of things; sanay si coach Yeng Guiao sa mga adjustments. I’m sure he’ll be ready. But I think the biggest thing is trying to do what we do best,” said Compton.
“We’ll not beat a team like Rain or Shine in this series unless you’re disciplined, excellent and that you’re really sharp. I expect a really good series, like the game we had in the eliminations where it came down to the last play,” added Compton.
The backcourt match up will have the likes of ROS players Paul Lee, Jeffrei Chan, Gabe Norwood and Jonathan Uyloan going against Alaska’s JVee Casio, Cyrus Baguio, Dondon Hontiveros and rookie Chris Banchero.
At the frontline, Alaska will rely on Best Player of the Conference (BPC) contender Calvin Abueva, Sonny Thoss, Eric Menk and Vic Manuel, while Rain or Shine will be Beau Belga, Jervy Cruz, JR Quinahan and Raymond Almazan.