FROM conceding a near sweep to having the belief it can finally beat its playoff nemesis, Rain or Shine’s expectations changed in just one half after pulling off a reversal against San Miguel Beer in Game One of their PBA Commissioner’s Cup semifinals.
The Elasto Painters aim to ride their momentum as they seek a follow-up in Game Two of the best-of-five series on Tuesday at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
Winning one game appeared to have been improbable after the E-Painters fell into an early 18-point hole, before they launched a comeback to snatch a 98-94 victory.
“Halftime, I was really frustrated,” ROS coach Yeng Guiao recalled. “I told the guys we’ll be lucky to win one game in this series.”
“(But now) we’re looking forward to a series which we might win this time,” he added with a smile ahead of Game Two that tips off at 7 p.m.
Still, Guiao refused to let his team get way ahead of itself after the Elasto Painters lost to the Beermen in their last two Final Four encounters.
“I’m sure it gives us some advantage, but I don’t know if it’s going to just push us toward winning the series — not against San Miguel,” the veteran coach said. “We need to play as hard as we did in Game One in order to produce wins against this team.”
“But the good sign is, ang ganda-ganda ng nilalaro ni June Mar (Fajardo) at (Tyler) Wilkerson, but we were able to pull out a win, so if we can just play good defense on these two guys in the next couple of games, maybe our chances are better,” he added.
Wilkerson scattered 40 points, while Fajardo added 23 points on 11-of-19 shooting, 13 boards, three assists, two blocks, and two steals in 37 minutes.
Pierre Henderson-Niles’ numbers (13 points, nine boards, two steals in 21 minutes) were a far cry from that of his SMB counterpart, but the ROS import scored nine of his total output in the payoff period in the height of the E-Painters’ turnaround.
“He’s not going to score a ton of points, but he’s the inside presence that we want,” said Guiao, who dumped Mo Charlo in favor of the burly 6-foot-8 reinforcement. “We don’t want to be dominated inside and he’s giving us that.
“He gave us big baskets in the stretch and I guess it’s not the number of points that you produce, but when you produce those points,” he added.
Still, Guiao is hoping Henderson-Niles, who committed four fouls even before the first half came to an end, can stay out of foul trouble.
“He’s trying his best. He’s getting frustrated sometimes,” Guiao admitted. “But that’s a big concern. San Miguel is a big team and if we cannot play our biggest guy because of foul trouble, ang laking nawawala sa amin.”
“If don’t think that if he gets into foul trouble in the next game, we will not survive their bigs, so we have to learn from this,” he added.