RAIN or Shine feels fortunate to end up as the sixth seed instead of seventh as the Elasto Painters look to close out Blackwater in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup quarterfinals on Tuesday.
The Elasto Painters drew with third-seed Elite at the end of the elimination round after San Miguel lost to Meralco at the end of the elimination round. As the sixth seed, Rain or Shine is currently in a best-of-three quarterfinals instead of seventh where they would have to win twice in order to advance into the semifinals.
Not bad for a team that ended up at 5-6 win-loss after a rocky elimination round that also saw them change imports midway in the campaign, bringing in Carl Montgomery to replace Denzel Bowles.
“The way the conference was going, we never had a winning streak na talagang umabot na three,” said Rain or Shine coach Caloy Garcia. “It’s always two and then, we lose two. We were lucky that San Miguel lost. It gave us the chance to be number three.”
ROS big man Beau Belga also feels the same way as Garcia. After his team took the sixth seed, Belga told his teammates to take advantage of the opportunity.
“’Yun ang sinabi ko sa kanila noon after manalo TNT,” said Belga. “Sabi ko sa huddle, binigyan tayo ng chance ng TNT na maging number six instead of number seven. Nandito na tayo sa sixth spot. Binigyan na tayo ng chance, kailangan natin i-grab.”
Belga added: “’Yung chance na ‘to, once in a lifetime lang mangyari na best-of-three ka matatapat instead sa twice-to-beat disadvantage. Samantalahin natin.”
The Rain or Shine cager likes the chances of his team against Blackwater mainly because the Elastopainters are an experienced bunch when it comes to playoff basketball.
The playoff experience showed in the series opener last Saturday when Rain or Shine scored the final 11 points of the game to complete the comeback from eight points down to beat Blackwater in Game One, 83-80.
“Sabi ko, we have a good chance against Blackwater. Sabi ko, alam naman nila na kapag playoffs, nag-iiba ‘yung laro. ‘Yun ang pinakita namin.”
“Kailangan eh (ipakita ‘yung experience sa playoffs),” Belga said. “Tingin ko mas experience kami pagdating sa playoffs. Etong Blackwater is parang baguhan sa playoffs. Kami, kahit papaano, nagkaroon kami ng chance last conference. May mga nakaraan kami na magkakasama kami sa playoffs. ‘Yun ‘yung siguro nadala namin. Nung una, sinasabihan ko na sila na kapag tumira kayo, mag-layup kayo, go hard na lang, wag niyo na artihan. Playoffs na ‘to. Hindi na uso ang bailout call dito.”
Even with the victory in Game One, Rey Nambatac said it will still be a difficult task to take down Blackwater. Nambatac sank the game-winning three for Rain or Shine last Saturday to grab the 1-0 lead in the best-of-three quarterfinal series.
“Masasabi ko, 70-30 kasi nasa amin advantage na twice-to-beat pero sabi nga ni coach sa huddle pagkatapos ng game, hindi namin puwede gawin maliitin ‘yung Blackwater. They are going to bounce back hard. They are going to bounce back hard. Kami sa part namin, nandoon ‘yung opportunity. Napakalaking na binigay na opportunity. ‘Yung eliminations naghahabol kami ng panalo. Masasabi namin na magandang position na meron kaming chance na makapasok uli sa semifinals,” said Nambatac.
Garcia agrees that Blackwater will definitely make a comeback come Game Two.
“Blackwater has been playing good this conference,” said Garcia. “They have the weapons, the bigs, they have the wings who can score. They are going to make adjustments.”