RAIN or Shine seeks to maximize its size advantage as it takes on a Blackwater side with an undermanned frontline on Sunday at the Ynares Center in Antipolo for a share of PBA Commissioner’s Cup lead.
Anchored by import Shawn Taggart, who has averaged 26 points, 10 boards, four assists, and three blocks in 37.4 minutes in the first two games, the Elasto Painters maintain their length even when their 6-foot-9 reinforcement goes to the bench as Raymond Almazan fills his spot.
That size proves to be an advantage as they take the court at 4:30 p.m. against an Elite side that’s missing combo forward Art dela Cruz and Poy Erram, leaving most of the heavy lifting to import Greg Smith.
“When you take out Shawn, you can still be long with Raymond inside,” ROS coach Caloy Garcia said of the 6-foot-8 Almazan, who is back in tip-top shape after missing the second half of the Philippine Cup due to a calf injury.
Almazan averaged 13 points, 11.6 boards, and 0.4 block in 23.2 minutes in the first five games of the all-Filipino conference before going down with a freak injury he suffered in practice the morning after his first baby was born.
“When Raymond got injured, it really crippled us especially on the defensive side,” Garcia said. “If you look at the stats, Raymond is our best shot blocker, rebounder, offensive rebounder, so basically ang laking nawala sa amin kay Raymond.”
“It’s very hard to find players like that,” the former Letran coach added of his former Knights stalwart and NCAA MVP. “Tinitingnan ko nga, kung ginagamit ko siya ng 40 minutes, he can score 26 and (grab) 20 (rebounds). Raymond plays a big part in this team.”
The Gilas Pilipinas pool member is now averaging 13.5 points on 62.5-percent shooting, five boards, 1.5 assists, and one block against only 0.5 turnover in just 22.4 minutes in the first two games of this conference.
“We just hope that we’re going to be healthy this conference,” Garcia said. “Medyo yun ang worry ko lang usually, but having an import like Shawn, maybe may ma-injure kang isa, may mag-step up na local, because I believe in the locals."
“We trust each other,” he added as a win against the Elite will tie them with Meralco on top. “We just have to be ready to play.”