Taking the opener of their best-of-seven PBA Commissioner’s Cup finals showdown against Alaska is an encouraging sign for Rain or Shine.
But Elasto Painters coach Yeng Guiao knows it won’t get any easier from there, aware the Aces are determined to respond with a flurry on Sunday’s Game 2 at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
“It’s nice to be back in the finals. It’s nice to win Game 1 but it’s not over until you win four games,” noted Guiao, 57, following Rain or Shine’s 105-97 victory over Alaska in the series opener on Friday night at the Big Dome.
“Alaska will be back and they’re going to be a lot tougher in Game 2,” he added.
The Elasto Painters got off to a strong start, leading by as many as 14 points in the first frame, but cooled off in the middle quarters in the face of the Aces’ stubborn plays led by import Rob Dozier but re-gathered their acts in the stretch to gain the psychological edge in the race-to-four affair.
“Lumamang kami pero that’s always gonna happen. It’s a game of runs and that team is gonna be able to come back,” noted Guiao.
Despite the continued absence of top playmaker JVee Casio and solid big man Vic Manuel, Alaska gave Rain or Shine all it could handle majority of the way, thanks to 6-foot-8 Dozier’s personal career-high of 41 points built around a sizzling 18-of-22 shooting from the field, spiked by four made treys.
Even the likes of veteran guard Cyrus Baguio (14 points) and back-up center Noy Baclao (10 markers) did their share on the offensive end but the Aces clearly missed the usual production from ace wingman Calvin Abueva, who seemed to be bothered by a right knee sprain he endured against Painters center Beau Belga in the first half.
However, Alaska refused to easily fold up, even threatening within two at 94-96 off RJ Jazul’s split freebies with under a minute left to play.
Unfortunately for them, Paul Lee drained his fourth and final triple after being left wide open from the left flank, stretching Rain or Shine’s lead back to five while giving them the momentum back with a little over 50 seconds left.
Guiao believes the frantic Game 1 finish should serve as an indication on how the series will unfold. “It’s going to be a lot closer next time. That’s our expectations,” he said. “But I hope I’m wrong.”
What’s giving Guiao added reason to be pleased with his wards’ latest performance was the fact that the Painters turned the ball over just 13 times against a relentless Aces defensive pressure.
Making him more satisfied was Rain or Shine’s 27 points off Alaska’s 14 errors.
“We’ve been worried about their press. We know they’re the best pressing team in the league. But we handle the ball pretty well in the backcourt against their press and I don’t think we turned the ball over too many times,” said Guiao, adding the Painters executed to the T what they planned to do once they were able to elude the Aces’ trap.
“The big shot really was when they tried to press us and we attack the ball and Paul got open,” he said, referring to Lee’s clutch triple with 51.4 ticks to go. “That was really sweet because we made them pay for pressing us that time.” – By Jerome Lagunzad
Follow this writer on Twitter: @JLFoxSports