JEFF Chan exploded for 23 of his 24 points in the second half as Rain or Shine lived to fight for another day with a riveting 81-74 win over San Mig in Game Five of their PLDT myDSL-PBA Philippine Cup Finals before a huge Sunday crowd at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
With the Painters' backs against the wall, Chan sparked the Elasto Painters in the fourth quarter, burying two three-pointers before capping his red-hot shooting with a tough fadeaway jumper off Peter June Simon to give his team a 79-72 lead with 48.3 ticks to go.
The Elasto Painters’ airtight defense made sure gunners like James Yap, PJ Simon and even rising star playmaker Mark Barroca won’t get easy looks from the basket from there as they cut San Mig's lead to 3-2 in the best-of-seven championship series.
Game Six is set on Wednesday at 8 p.m. at the Smart Araneta Coliseum with Rain or Shine looking for another win that would forge the winner-take-all match on Friday.
“We just grind out a win, we’re still behind in the series, though one thing we can promise the fans is we will fight it out to the end,” said Rain or Shine coach Yeng Guiao, after seeing his boys scrape out the tough victory before more than 20,000 predominantly San Mig fans.
Guiao said the victory “delayed” the Mixers’ championship celebration, though they are hopeful that the Game Five victory can give them enough momentum going into Wednesday’s game.
“We’re still looking to make the championship. One thing I told the boys before the game, we cannot lose the sense of destiny even if we’re behind. It’s not over,” added the fiery Rain or Shine mentor.
“We have to believe in ourselves and stay positive. Who knows what will happen. A big win like this can turn the complexion around in our favor."
Marc Pingris played through an eye abrasion, providing the energy for the Mixers with a solid double-double performance of 18 points and 15 rebounds in a 36-minute effort.
The San Mig forward wore a protective lens on his right eye, which was accidentally poked by JR Quinahan during the third period of Game Four.
San Mig coach Tim Cone admitted there were some areas in their game where they broke down on defense, which allowed the Elasto Painters to get their offense going in the second half.
“We gave a valiant effort. And trying to beat this team (Rain or Shine), four games in a row is hard,” said Cone, whose voice was cracking during the post-game interview.
James Yap also scored 18, while Alex Mallari and Mark Barroca added 11 and 10, respectively, though the usually reliable Joe Devance and rookie Ian Sangalang could only score a combined 10 points in Game Five.
San Mig’s breakdown in offense can be seen in its 19 turnovers, which Rain or Shine easily converted to 20 points.
Rain or Shine 81 - Chan 24, Belga 10, Tiu 9, Lee 8, Norwood 7, Quinahan 6, Rodriguez 5, Arana 4, Almazan 4, Cruz 2, Ibanes 2.
San Mig 74 - Pingris 18, Yap 18, Mallari 11, Barroca 10, Devance 7, Simon 4, Sangalang 3, De Ocampo 2, Reavis 1, Melton 0.
Quarterscores: 14-20, 35-43, 59-54, 81-74