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PBA: SMB seeks 2-0 edge

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Game Today
(Smart Araneta Coliseum)
7 p.m. – Rain or Shine vs San Miguel Beer
(Game 2 best-of-7 semifinals)
Game Tomorrow
(Mall of Asia Arena)
7 p.m. – Globalport vs Alaska (Game 3 best-of-7 semifinals)

The on-court basketball ‘drama’ that is the semifinal series between defending champion San Miguel Beer and Rain or Shine continues as the two teams clash in Game 2 of their showdown in the Smart Bro PBA Philippine Cup today at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Two days ago, the Beermen came through with one of the biggest comeback victories in the league this season behind back-to-back MVP June Mar Fajardo that left the Elasto Painters frustrated.

Down by as many as 22 points late in the third, and 73-93 early in the fourth, Fajardo combined efforts with Ronald Tubid, Chris Ross and Arwind Santos as they rallied back to score a 109-105 win last Tuesday at the Mall of Asia (MOA) Arena in Pasay City.

Except for his team playing catch up, SMB mentor Leo Austria expects the same highly physical and emotional encounter with Rain or Shine as their best-of-seven series resumes at 7 p.m.

“That’s what we expect every time we play Rain or Shine, they’re tough and physical,” said Austria. “We’ll just be ready for them, and focus on playing and executing our game.”

“What we don’t want to happen again is play behind just like what happened in Game 1. We got lucky we won, but we can’t let that happen again because they are capable of beating us,” added Austria.

Rain or Shine nearly did that.

With their run-and-gun attack and crisp passes on half court sets clicking, the Painters scored 68 points in the first half of Game 1 – the most by any team so far this season.

But when SMB shifted to ‘zone’ defense, the Beermen were able to slow the game and the ball movement of RoS, with Ross collecting a career-high seven steals – tied for seventh in league history – as he disrupted the ball movement of the opposing team.

The drama and emotion also spilled on the sideline when Ross and Guiao had a heated argument.

Video replays showed Guiao, as he walked towards Ross, bumped the SMB guard while the latter was about to inbound the ball in front of the RoS bench. Ross argued with Guiao but was pushed by Belga.

Cooler heads prevailed, with Guiao – as cameras were on him – did the famous ‘pabebe wave’ towards the referees reviewing the play on the other side of the court with PBA Commissioner Chito Narvasa. Guiao, Belga and Ross were each given a technical foul.

The action of Guiao – the ‘pabebe wave’ popularized by Maine Mendoza a.k.a “Yayadub” and Alden Richards in the Kalye Serye segment of popular noontime show Eat Bulaga – was a hit on various social networking sites as netizens posted memes and comments.

The physicality, however, didn’t affect the 6-foot-10 Fajardo, who was unstoppable despite being hit by RoS big man Jewel Ponferada that caused a swelling on his right eye.

The leading contender for Best Player of the Conference scored 36 points, while adding 18 rebounds, three assists and five block shots against the RoS frontline of Beau Belga, JR Quiñahan, Raymond Almazan and Ponferada.

“Tinamaan ni Jewel, pero ok lang ganun talaga sa laro e. Focus lang ako sa game, ready lang sa Game 2,” said Fajardo, who got solid support from Santos and Tubid as they scored 19 and 15 points, respectively.

As for Rain or Shine, Guiao said while it was disappointing to lose the game, there are things to learn in the setback and there are positives like the way Paul Lee (eight points in more than 17 minutes) performed in his first game after missing 13 games due to a left knee injury.

“We just need to put this behind us,” said Guiao. “It’s a very disappointing loss, but it’s a long series. Learn from the lesson of today… we don’t want this game to stop us from doing what we need to do.”

“I guess we need to look at this positively. The game was ours to lose. We can’t blame anybody but ourselves. We’ll be a better team on Thursday,” added Guiao.