Rain or Shine back in PBA Finals after three-game sweep of resolute Meralco
Paul Lee led Rain or Shine once again with 23 points. Jerome Ascano

RAIN or Shine unleashed a flurry of baskets in the second half behind Raymond Almazan, import Wayne Chism and Paul Lee to complete a three-game sweep of an all-Filipino Meralco side, 107-98, and advance to the PBA Commissioner’s Cup Finals on Tuesday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

The reed-thin Almazan banged in 13 of his 14 points in the third quarter, helping the Elasto Painters regain control of the game after surprisingly falling behind, 60-55, to a Meralco team which rode  the outside shooting of Mark Macapagal and inside forays of Sean Anthony after being orphaned by Josh Davis.

Come the fourth period, Chism and Lee joined hands in puncturing Meralco’s defense with baskets from inside and outside to complete the Elasto Painters’ 3-0 sweep of the semifinal playoff.

The top-seeded Elasto Painters remained unbeaten in the playoffs as they reached the finals for the third in the last five conferences and fifth over the last nine.

Rain or Shine, which won its only league championship in the 2012 Governors Cup, will face the winner of the other semifinal series between Purefoods Star and Talk ‘N Text.

The series is currently tied at one win apiece.

“We got a really big break with their (Bolts) import not being able to play,” said Rain or Shine coach Yeng Guiao referring to Davis, who failed to play after hyperextending his left shoulder in Game Two.

“It’s just too bad they really had a chance in this series and the scores don’t reflect how difficult this series was,” he added.

Lee finished with a game-high 23 points while Chism added 16 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists for Rain or Shine, which also remained hot by adding 13 three-pointers to the 17 it scored in Game Two.

Guiao, however, paid tribute to Meralco’s resolve and effort in Game Three, which saw the Bolts chew up a 19-point deficit in the second quarter with their choking defense and outside shooting.

“We had to make the adjustments and keep ourselves tough throughout the whole series. But they will be a better team next year or next conference just with the experience they’ve had in this playoffs,” said Guiao.

Like in Game One, the Elasto Painters relied on their running game that led to a huge 26-4 advantage in fastbreak points.

Cliff Hodge led the Bolts with 20 points and 13 rebounds, while Reynel Hugnatan chipped in 19.

The scores:

Rain or Shine 107 - Lee 23, Chism 16, Almazan 14, Arana 12, Norwood 10, Uyloan 8, Tiu 7, Belga 7, Ibanes 2, Teng 2, Cruz Jericho 2, Cruz Jervy 2, Quinahan 2, Tang 0.


Meralco 98 - Hodge 20, Macapagal 20, Hugnatan 19, Anthony 14, Cortez 11, Caram 4, Wilson 3, Ildefonso 3, Sena 2, Ferriols 2,  David 0.

Quarters: 31-21, 49-52, 84-74, 107-98

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