RAIN or Shine is no doubt the hottest team in the PLDT myDSL-PBA Philippine Cup, having won 12 of its last 13 games on its way to yet another Finals appearance in the season-opening tournament.
Elasto Painters coach Yeng Guiao, though, is well aware the Elasto Painters will be up against a San Mig Super Coffee side that is in peak form after watching the Mixers clobber Barangay Ginebra, 110-87, in the deciding Game Seven of their semifinal series on Wednesday.
“Coach Tim (Cone) and San Mig, they are playing their best basketball at least in the last seven or eight games,” said the outspoken Guiao.
“They did not start out well in the conference, but again, that’s (reaching the Finals) a tribute to the resilience of the team and a tribute to the leadership of coach Tim because they found ways to win,” noted the fiery mentor.
Behind such backdrop, Rain or Shine face off with a banged-up San Mig squad starting on Friday night’s Game One of the best-of-seven title series at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
Guiao is aware his team owns a 2-0 head-to-head match-up against San Mig during the elimination round, but he calls that record “irrelevant” come the Finals.
“Even if coach Tim said we had their number a couple of games, that’s really irrelevant. They’ve gotten better. It’s a whole new story,” explained Guiao.
“They gotten deeper. Ian Sangalang is making a contribution. Justin Melton is making a contribution. Marc (Pingris) is playing better than previously, and James (Yap) has gotten his shooting back,” he added.
On the other hand, Cone said Thursday was “cram” day for the Mixers, given the one-day window given them to prepare against a well-rested Elasto Painters – or about 24 hours since formally clinching a Finals berth.
“We haven’t had a chance to view the video or do anything. But they (Elasto Painters) are so cohesive that its gonna be a tough series,” said Cone, who has steered the San Mig franchise to its fourth Finals appearance over the last six conferences.
“Luckily, it’s a seven-game (Finals) series. Maybe, we could recover our bearings a game or two, but we’ll just try to prepare and then get the guys rested and hopefully, pull off some surprises tomorrow (Friday),” he added.
An added motivation for San Mig was its loss to Rain or Shine during the 2012 Governors Cup Finals that denied the team a back-to-back championship after winning the Commissioner’s Cup title that same season.
The championship was the first-ever for Rain or Shine since joining the league in 2006.
“We just hava a lot of respect for Rain or Shine. They have had our number the last few times,” noted Cone.
“When we tried to go (for) back-to-back (titles), when we played Yeng then, we lost in Game Seven. Now we’ll try to go back-to-back, and still, Rain or Shine is in front of us.”