RAIN or Shine guard Jericho Cruz fears his team's battered confidence, more than it's beat-up roster, might spell the end of the Elasto Painters’ campaign in the Smart Bro-PBA Philippine Cup.
The former Adamson star was glad to make his return in Game Five after being given the go signal by doctors to play following a collision with San Miguel gunner Marcio Lassiter that left him with a hyper-extended knee in Game Three on Saturday.
The Elasto Painters still managed to survive his absence with a 111-106 win to gain a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven semifinals series. But they have since lost the next two games, even with Cruz playing in their most recent defeat on Wednesday.
Cruz has since noticed that the Elasto Painters’ confidence started to dip, and it's a trend they need to reverse if they are to prevent the Beermen from defending the title against early finalist Alaska.
“’Yun ang mahirap, kasi ang kumpyansa ng kabila (San Miguel) it’s another level na eh,” said Cruz. “At kailangan namin makuha ang kumpyansa namin ulit at saka ma-tie ‘yung series para pumunta ng Game Seven.”
The sophomore cager admitted they weren’t playing like they used to but he hopes to regain their lost aggressiveness and teamwork.
“Concern ng team namin is to play as a team,” he said. “And ‘yung defense namin dapat mas aggressive kami, we’re going to play like it’s our last game.”
Still, Cruz could not help but rue the absence of Raymond Almazan, who suffered a right ankle sprain on the eve of Game Three that ruled the ROS big man out for the remainder of the series.
He feels the void left by the 6-foot-8 former Letran slotman’s energy on the court.
“Syempre Raymond is one sa pinakamalaki sa amin kahit papaano ang laki ng tulong niya sa blocks (and) sa rebounds,” said Cruz.
“Tapos pag binigyan mo sa ilalim sure na dunk na niya, (kaya) nakakataas din ng kumpyansa ‘yun,” he added. “Nanghihinayang kami na nawala si Raymond, pero ganoon talaga pag may nawawala may nagste-step up.”
Game Six is on Friday at the Big Dome.