A WELL-RESTED Rain or Shine side takes its act to a higher level as it battles Alaska at the start of their PBA Philippine Cup semifinals series on Thursday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The Elasto Painters will try to ride the momentum of a week-long rest and a seven-game winning streak against the Aces going to their 7 p.m. encounter.
The match-up is a rematch of the two team’s semifinal face-off in last season’s Governors Cup that saw Rain or Shine edge out Alaska in five grueling games.
The Aces however, played the deciding Game Five of the short series minus injured players Sonny Thoss, Gabby Espinas, and JV Casio, all of whom got hurt during the course of the playoffs.
Casio’s injury actually, was the biggest blow for the team after his freak slip while going all alone for a basket in Game Four allowed Rain or Shine to steal the win and eventually forced the knockout match.
But despite things obviously going for his team, coach Yeng Guiao said the Aces have two major advantages over the second-seeded Elasto Painters.
“Alaska has more experience and winning tradition. That counts a lot and it doesn’t show in the stats,” said Guiao, whose team eked out a 98-95 win over Alaska in their lone elimination round encounter on December 5.
“It really makes a difference especially in close games and pressure situations because the more veteran a team is, experienced players will always have an edge.”
Other than that, the Elasto Painters also face issues regarding injuries.
Entering the semis, Guiao still has to make do with a banged-up roster as rookie guard Jericho Cruz and sophomore Jeric Teng are already out for the remainder of the conference.
The 6-foot Cruz underwent surgery last week after suffering a broken left foot in the team’s 100-90 win over Ginebra during the elims, while Teng is still recovering from a back injury related to his spine.
With Cruz out, Guiao explained the need for the versatile Gabe Norwood to revert to his old spot in the backcourt, to add some size to the team’s guard-heavy rotation led by Paul Lee, Ryan Arana, Tyron Tang, and the vastly-improved Jonathan Uyloan.
However, Alaska coach Alex Compton still maintains a high respect for Guiao and his team, owing to the consistency, energy, and toughness the franchise has displayed over the last eight conferences.
“The way Rain or Shine plays, their energy, their teamwork, their experience, their toughness, these all make them one of the best teams in the league,” said Compton, who has also steered Alaska to the semifinals for the second straight conference since taking over the coaching helm during last season’s Governors Cup.
“They play excellent and exciting basketball and coach Yeng has led them to a place of prominence in the PBA.”