Elasto Painters put away importless Meralco
With Josh Davis in the lineup, Meralco Bolts had no answers to Rain or Shine. Without him, no more questions were necessary.
The Bolts made a contest of a foregone conclusion in Game 3 of the PBA Commissioner’s Cup semifinals last night, courageously battling Rain or Shine on equal terms from the second quarter despite the absence of the injured Davis. In the end though, the deficit proved too huge to overcome for Meralco as the Elasto Painters hammered out a 107-98 victory to complete a 3-0 sweep of the series and secure a return trip to the best-of-7 Finals at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
“We got a really big break with their import not being able to play,” said ROS coach Yeng Guiao. “We made the finals just by being lucky. The scores don’t reflect how difficult this series was. We had to make adjustments throughout and keep ourselves tough.”
On its third championship appearance in the last five conferences, ROS will clash with the winner of the best-of-5 semis between defending champion Purefoods Star and Talk ‘N Text which is deadlocked at one win apiece following a ferocious fightback by TNT Monday.
The pivotal Game 3 is tomorrow at the Big Dome.
Should Purefoods advance, the Finals will be a rematch of last season’s Governors’ Cup title showdown which the Hotshots, then known as the San Mig Super Coffee Mixers, won in five games over ROS to climax a masterful season for only the PBA’s fifth Grand Slam.
If TNT manages to avenge its 3-1 loss to Purefoods (San Mig Coffee) in last year’s Commissioner’s Cup championship, the best-of-7 series will set the stage for another showdown between the Tropang Texters and the Elasto Painters after the 2012-13 Philippine Cup Finals which TNT swept, 4-0.
The Bolts had their best shot at torpedoing an ROS sweep in the second quarter after they rallied from 19 points down, 30-11, late in the first period to go ahead, 45-40, and 52-49 at the halftime break, with Davis sitting on an ice chest beside hobbled teammate Jared Dillinger.
The 6-foot-7 Davis hurt his left shoulder in a 92-82 loss in Game 2 Sunday and didn’t play, watching the game and yelling support to his teammates from the corner, his left arm on a sling. Dillinger hurt his knee earlier on in a collision with Al Thornton during their quarterfinal series with the NLEX Road Warriors.
Guiao admitted he would have relished the victory more had Davis not been sidelined.
“It certainly took something out of it,” Guiao said after pondering the question. “We would have wanted to have it with their import battling it out like in the first two games. But these things happen. It happened to them, it has happened to us. That’s part of the mystery of basketball.”
After raining down 19 three-pointers in Game 2, ROS had four in the first 12 minutes as Ryan Arana went 2 for 2 and Gabe Norwood 2 for 3, combining to jumpstart the E-Painters to a 19-point lead. But Meralco shot 61 percent in the second period, with seldom-used sniper Mark Macapagal coming off the bench for 13 points and Reynel Hugnatan adding 6, to engineer an inspired comeback against the 33 percent-shooting E-Painters who had no player with more than 4 points in the next 12 minutes.
As short-lived as ROS’ cold spell, however, so was Meralco’s hot streak, especially once Paul Lee took over in the third.
Lee, a leading candidate, along with Talk ‘N Text’s Jayson Castro, for the Best Player of the Conference award, scored 9 points to start the second half, while ROS import Wayne Chism, with only two free throws in the first half, surfaced somewhat with 5 points, matching Chris Tiu’s output in slowly turning the lights out on the Bolts by outscoring them, 35-22, and opening an 84-74 spread going to the final period.
The Bolts bowed out of contention in icy conditions and in stark contrast with their fiery 5-0 start in the conference.
RAIN OR SHINE 107 – Lee 23, Chism 16, Almazan 14, Arana 12, Norwood 10, Uyloan 8, Tiu 7, Belga 7, Ibanes 2, Teng 2, Cruz Jericho 2, Cruz Jervy 2, Quinahan 2, Tang 0.
MERALCO 98 – Hodge 20, Macapagal 20, Hugnatan 19, Anthony 14, Cortez 11, Caram 4, Wilson 3, Ildefonso 3, Sena 2, Ferriols 2, David 0.
Quarters: 31-21, 49-52, 84-74, 107-98