Blood is finally spilled in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup Finals, a consequence of the extreme physicality that continues unabated and uncontrolled in the best-of-7 championship series.
Rain or Shine paid a huge price in taking a 2-1 lead in the bruising title showdown with Talk ‘N Text after briefly losing point guard Paul Lee in the third quarter from a bloody mouth and a detached front tooth following a collision with Tropang Texters import Ivan Johnson at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Elasto Painters went on to win Game Three, 109-97, with Lee returning late in the fourth quarter to keep his team together after the Tropang Texters made a desperate run at overcoming a 22-point deficit, coming to within 13 but not any closer.
ROS now looks to add to the previous 24 of 39 teams (62 percent) that went all the way to clinch the championship after snapping a 1-1 tie. It also seeks to join six of the last seven ballclubs which won back-to-back games first on the way to wrapping up the series.
Game Four is on Wednesday, 7 p.m., also at the Big Dome, with ROS gunning for a 3-1 advantage which 32 of the last 33 finalists that held that edge, including the last 20, translated into championships.
The ferocity of the series nearly claimed a key figure in Lee, however, and ROS coach Yeng Guiao warned that the level of roughness of play between the two teams has reached a dangerous level.
“If you have your top player falling on the floor with an elbow on his face and they call it an ordinary foul, delikado na talaga yan,” said Guiao, who was knocked over from behind by Johnson in Game 2, an infraction that cost the TNT reinforcement a P150,000 fine. “Buti ngipin lang ang tinamaan. What if he broke his nose or something more serious?”
With 5:07 remaining and ROS ahead, 67-53, Lee tried to draw a charge from Johnson, who appeared to ram an elbow at Lee’s face as he crashed into him. Lee collapsed to the floor, stayed there a few minutes with blood dripping on the floor from his mouth and left for the dugout holding a blood-stained towel.
He returned to the E-Painters bench in the fourth quarter and was fielded back with 4:15 left, feeding Gabe Norwood for a two-handed breakaway slam and giving ROS a 109-94 lead with a layup in the final 1:59.
A waiting car whisked him to the hospital right after the game where an emergency procedure will be done hopefully to save his loosened tooth.
After a 30-point performance in Game 2 which ROS won, 116-108, Wayne Chism had 32 points this time on 10 of 15 from the floor to go with 15 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 steals in 40:59 minutes. He was 9 of 11 from the free throw line where the E-Painters missed just 6 of 30.
Johnson, who had a post-game run-in with ROS guard Ryan Arana outside the locker rooms and again strayed into the E-Painters bench in the fourth quarter, causing Guiao to backpedal, lose his balance and fall over backwards, led TNT with 30 points, 14 rebounds and 3 assists after getting held down to 20 in Game 2.
But 44-point man Jayson Castro was decisively humbled.
Switching Chism or a bigger man on him from top-of-the-key, Castro, who unloaded 44 in Game 2, went scoreless until the 6:34 mark in the first quarter after ROS had stormed to a 17-4 lead and didn’t get a 3-point shot before the last 3:35 of the period.
He set an all-time record nine triples Friday. Last night, he just had 2 (out of 4), the second trey coming also in the first quarter.
“Kay Jayson siguro maliit yung 20, pero sa’min malaki na yon,” said Guiao when asked about their success in limiting the prodigious Castro. “Nobody can stop him one-on-one kaya it’s team defense pa rin.”
Unlike TNT, which lost a 17-point second quarter lead in Game 2, ROS was able to hang on to a 46-29 spread behind Chism’s 10 points in the third period, Jeff Chan’s 7 and Lee finding the open man when doubled.
RAIN OR SHINE 109 – Chism 32, Lee 17, Cruz Jericho 14, Chan 12, Quinahan 9, Norwood 6, Tiu 6, Belga 6, Almazan 4, Cruz Jervy 2, Tang 1, Ibanes 0, Arana 0.
TALK N’ TEXT 97 – Johnson 30, Castro 20, Fonacier 16, De Ocampo 16, Alas 8, Rosser 5, Washington 2, Carey 0, Williams 0, Aban 0.
Quarters: 32-26, 52-45, 84-65, 109-97