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PBA: Painters, Bolts start semis series tonight

Wayne Chism and Josh Davis (Tempo.com.ph)

Wayne Chism and Josh Davis (Tempo.com.ph)

Game Today (Smart Araneta Coliseum)
7 p.m. – Rain or Shine vs Meralco

Game Tomorrow
(Smart Araneta Coliseum)
7 p.m. – Talk ’N Text vs Purefoods

Except for the experience playing in the semifinal round, Rain or Shine mentor Yeng Guiao doesn’t see any advantage that his Elasto Painters hold when they face the Meralco Bolts in a best-of-five showdown in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup today at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

“Our advantage is our experience being together when it comes to playing in the playoffs,” said Guiao. “Other than that, we can’t claim that we are more talented than the other team. Certainly not.”

The top seeded Rain or Shine and No. 5 Meralco clash in Game 1 at 7 p.m.

The Elasto Painters ousted Barangay Ginebra San Miguel, 92-91, Saturday while the Bolts edged NLEX, 91-85, in overtime Sunday.

Rain or Shine will make its 11th semifinal appearance against Meralco’s third since joining the pro league in 2010.

It marks the first time both teams will clash in the semis.

Guiao is not taking the Bolts lightly.

“They earned their slot to get to the semifinals, so we have to respect that. They have an import (Josh Davis) who epitomize their character, they’re scrappy, they’re hard working and they’re relentless,” said Guiao.

“So we’re expecting a tough series and winning the series opener is very crucial. Even in a best-of-seven series, it’s very important, what more in a shorter series like a best-of-five.”

“There are lots of advantages in winning Game 1. First it sets the tone, second you are shifting the burden of adjustment to the opposing team. Third, the psychological advantage, knowing that you can beat them,” said Guiao.

Meralco won its last outing against Rain or Shine last Feb. 10 where where import Josh Davis finished with 31 points, 14 rebounds and four blocked shots.

At that time, however, the Painters played with import Rick Jackson, who has been replaced by returning reinforcement Wayne Chism who averaged 30 points and 15 rebounds per game.

Meralco coach Norman Black, who is in his first season with the Bolts, expects a fierce encounter with Rain or Shine.

“It will be an intense battle with Rain or Shine. We’ll have to recover very quickly from our overtime game with NLEX,” said Black. “Major concerns are getting back on defense and slowing down there fast break.”

“Also, we’ll have to do a good job defending their shooters. On our part, we have to come out with loads of energy if we want to get Game 1,” added Black, whose team will miss the services of Jared Dillinger (left knee injury).

While the Bolts have injury problems, the Painters will come in with a healthy roster, as rookie Jericho Cruz and sophomore Jeric Teng have recovered from their injuries.

Guiao and Black both agree that more than the contributions of their imports, the support of the locals will be crucial in this series.

Leading ROS is Best Player of the Conference (BPC) contender Paul Lee, his teammates with Gilas Pilipinas Jeff Chan, Gabe Norwood and Beau Belga, center Raymond Almazan, guards Ryan Arana, Chris Tiu and Jonathan Uyloan.

Gary David will lead the local support for Meralco with support coming from forwards Cliff Hodge, Swasn Anthony and Reynel Hugnatan, guards Mike Cortez and John Wilson.