RAIN or Shine once again leaned on its daunting defense to outlast San Mig Coffee, 83-74, and move a win away from making the Finals of the PBA Philippine Cup Thursday night at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Defensive ace Ronnie Matias provided the hustle and intensity for the Elasto Painters as he also made life miserable for Mixers star player James Yap, while rookie Chris Tiu scored the team’s last seven points to clinch the crucial Game 4 win.
The Welbest franchise now holds a commanding 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven semifinals series and could earn a second straight championship berth with another win in Saturday’s Game 5.
“Again, I’m not really surprised the other guys stepped up. Paul Lee played horribly. Chris Tiu stepped up. Ronnie Matias stepped up. Gabe Norwood also stepped up. It’s a big game for us. Now, we have three chances to make it to the Finals,” said Rain or Shine coach Yeng Guiao afterwards.
Guiao said they have no plans of prolonging the series, now that they have the Mixers on the ropes.
“Our plan is to finish it off on Saturday. Kung kaya namin tapusin sa Sabado, tatapusin na namin. I have full trust on my team to play defense. Jireh (Ibanes) and Ryan (Arana) stepped up to play defense,” he added.
The outspoken Rain or Shine mentor said he talked with Matias at half time and let him know he wasn’t pleased with how he played in the opening half.
Guiao said he was glad the hardworking guard adjusted quickly and made an impact in the second half.
“I guess Ronnie Matias just hustled his way to being the best player of this game. I was a little disappointed when I first put him in. Nagkaroon siya ng defensive lapse. Nakawala sa kanya twice si James. But when he came back after the half, he more than made up for his mistakes,” explained Guiao.
Matias finished with eight points, five rebounds - all on the offensive end, -along with a steal and an assist in 14 minutes off-the-bench.
Yap managed to bounce back from a lackluster six-point output in Game 3 performance, topscoring for 20 markers, but he had to bleed for every point.
The former two-time league MVP had to fight through the leech-like defense of Ibanes, Arana, and Matias all throughout the game.
Despite having a lot of `bigs’, the Mixers were again outrebounded for the second straight game, 44-49.
The Elasto Painters’ defense was pretty much in high gear as seen in their 14-7 advantage in steals.
Norwood led Rain or Shine with 14 points, while Arana added 13. Jeff Chan and Tiu chipped in 12 and 10 respectively as they more than made up for the scoring absence of Lee, who finished with only two points.
Rain or Shine (83) -- Norwood 14, Arana 13, Chan 12, Tiu 10, Matias 8, Cruz 6, Belga 6, Rodriguez 4, Quinahan 3, Ibanes 3, Lee 2, Tang 2.
San Mig Coffee (74) -- Yap 20, Simon 15, Devance 14, Pingris 7, Ramos 5, Reavis 4, De Ocampo 4, Barroca 3, Gaco 2, Villanueva 0.
Quarterscores: 18-10; 40-32; 62-52; 83-74.