The Best Player of the Conference derby is fast shaping the outcome of the PBA Commissioner’s Cup Finals.
Rain or Shine survived an incredible 44-point performance from Jayson Castro in Game 2 last night to turn back Talk ‘N Text behind Paul Lee’s fourth quarter revival, 116-108, and tie at one game apiece the best-of-7 championship series at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Game 3 is tomorrow, 5 p.m., also at the Big Dome, with both teams gunning for the pivotal win and Castro and Lee looking to continue their scoring duel for the BPC award.
After a tepid debut in Game 1 which TNT won, 99-92, last Wednesday, Castro and Lee came out firing on all cylinders this time, with Castro putting on a blistering show with 27 of his total output coming in the first half where ROS trailed, 58-41, at one point.
Draining four straight 3-pointers in one scorching streak, Castro’s nine 3-pointers erased Robert Jaworski’s 35-year-old record for most 3-pointers by a local player which the Big J set during the 1980 Open Conference with Toyota in Game 2 of the Finals against U-Tex.
Castro had 13 in the first quarter, 14 in the second, 7 in the third and 10 in the final 12 minutes even with ROS defense specialist Jireh Ibanes all over him.
“Jayson was almost unguardable,” admitted ROS coach Yeng Guiao. “When he’s like that, all you can do is weather the storm, hang in there, let the law of averages take over, and say a lot of prayers. Talagang dadasalan mo na lang.”
Lee played a role towards dimming somewhat Castro’s offensive brilliance.
After struggling for six points in the first three quarters and shooting just 2 of 4 from the field, Lee, running third behind Castro and San Miguel Beer’s Junemar Fajardo in the BPC race, took over from import Wayne Chism, pouring 14 points in the fourth period, with his 3-pointer giving ROS a 110-100 lead in the final four minutes.
Chism had 13 of his 30 points in the third quarter where the E-Painters rallied to overcome a double digit halftime deficit and push into the last 12 minutes with an 85-84 edge following a huge fightback. Beau Belga had 7 points during the period, Jeff Chan added 6 and Gabe Norwood 5 points.
Ivan Johnson, the TNT import, had 20 points with 12 rebounds, but was clearly a less ferocious personality after getting fined P150,000 by the PBA for knocking over Guiao from behind in the third quarter of Game 1.
Jong Uichico, the TNT coach, said Johnson may have been “more careful” after the incident and the whopping penalty levied on him.
After saying he “wasn’t satisfied” despite winning the opener, Uichico got more reasons to be displeased even after Castro nearly matched Allan Caidic’s 48-point Finals record in 1987 with Great Taste Coffee against Tanduay.
“I don’t think we defended the way we should have,” he said.
Rain or Shine’s 61 percent shooting in the third quarter where the E-Painters outscored the Texters, 36-22, went a long way in confirming Uichico’s belief although there was nothing all the defense in the world could have done to deny a spectacular ROS play with 1:12 remaining and TNT trailing, 110-103.
With the shot clock winding down and nowhere to go, Chan lobbed the ball over Johnson towards the basket where Ibanes rose to snare it, twisted in midair and banked it in.
RAIN OR SHINE 116 – Chism 30, Lee 20, Chan 17, Norwood 14, Ibanes 12, Belga 8, Arana 7, Almazan 4, Teng 2, Quinahan 2, Cruz Jericho 0, Tang 0, Tiu 0, Cruz Jervy 0.
TALK N’ TEXT 108 – Castro 44, Johnson 20, De Ocampo 15, Rosser 10, Fonacier 8, Alas 5, Williams 2, Seigle 2, Aban 2.
Quarters: 27-26, 49-62, 85-84, 116-108