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PBA: Painters try to level series

TalkNText Jason Castro run around the defense put-up by SMB's June Mar Fajardo and Chris Lutz during PBA action at MOA Arena.   Photo by Tony Pionilla

Game Today (Mall of Asia Arena)
4:15 p.m. – Alaska vs Rain or Shine

Manila, Philippines – Rain or Shine coach Yeng Guiao will be back after getting tossed in Game 3. Same with center Beau Belga, who followed his mentor to the showers. But will the rest of the Elasto Painters show up for the most pivotal match of the series? Or will they look like the lost souls who got blown off by the Alaska Aces right in the first quarter Monday?

The E-Painters better lest this be the darkest Christmas ever for the franchise as it struggles to ward off the surging Aces at 4:15 p.m. today in Game 4 of the PBA Philippine Cup semifinals at the Mall of Asia Arena.

Alaska leads the best-of-7 series, 2 games to 1, its go-ahead 94-78 victory a testament to the Aces’ capacity to withstand ROS’ heaviest pounding and capability to strike back with decisive force.

After opening a 24-12 lead in the first quarter, the Aces went on to build a 42-27 advantage at the half. Guiao and Belga were gone by then, ejected with consecutive technicals from excessive complaining against officiating.

Without Guiao to will them back and Belga to throw his weight and defiance around, the E-Painters were hammered under the boards, 57-45, and shot just 33 percent from the floor. Fouling heavily out of frustration, they also sent the Aces to the line for 44 free throws – nearly double their charities – of which Alaska converted 29.

Although Guiao took exception at the calls, he likewise gave his players nearly an hour of tongue-lashing over their lackadaisical play and refusal to hold their own against Calvin Abueva and the charging Aces.

“It’s a must-win for us on Christmas Day and that they needed to be reminded of,” Guiao said.

The same holds true for the Aces, whose semis collapse in the previous Governors’ Cup against the E-Painters remains seared in their minds. Alaska led 2-1 in that best-of-5 playoffs but wound up dropping their next two games, including a heartbreaker in Game 4 when Jayvee Casio slipped on the wet floor and hurt his knee late in the game.

Alaska coach Alex Compton marveled at the way they conducted themselves in Game 3.

“I felt the guys asserted themselves and really came out with a far superior effort,” he said. “Defense has always been a key for us this conference. And I hope it sustains us the rest of the way because I don’t think we can win shootouts.”

Compton won’t have to worry so much if the E-Painters continue to miss 25 three-point attempts the way they did in the last game as Guiao raged at his players’ obstinacy to fire duds from afar at the expense of their inside game.

The winner of this series will face whoever emerges from the other semis pairing where San Miguel Beer now leads Talk ‘N Text 3 games to nil.