RAIN or Shine shrugged off a sub-par offensive performance from its import to survive Air21, 87-82, in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup on Monday night at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
Despite Wayne Chism good for only six points, the Elasto Painters fended off a late Express run to get back on the winning track, improving to 4-4 win-loss to move a game up on Air21 and Ginebra (3-5) in the battle for positioning ahead of the knockout quarterfinals.
“Our import really struggled offensively, but his defensive presence was enough to lift us,” said Rain or Shine coach Yeng Guiao, who rejoined the team after missing one game for a business trip in Europe. “The locals also kept us in the game for the most part.”
Jervy Cruz and Paul Lee picked up the slack, scattering 13 and 12 points, respectively, while Chris Tiu registered five of his seven points in the payoff period for the Elasto Painters.
Chism, who was scoreless in the first half and did not make his first two points until midway through the third quarter, missed all but two of his 12 shots in 28 minutes of play.
But with Air21 down by just 80-84 less than a minute left, Alex McLean’s replacement made a crucial defensive stop, stealing the ball off the Express inbound to suck the air out of the Express comeback.
The Painters were in the driver’s seat for the most part of the game, but saw the Express make a rally in the third period where they cut the lead to just one, 50-51, after a Mac Cardona basket off the baseline.
Air21 import Wesley Witherspoon finished with a game-high 23 points, including four straight points that put his team within 78-82 with one minute and 23 seconds remaining.
Rain or Shine (87) – Cruz 13, Lee 12, Nuyles 8, Rodriguez 8, Arana 7, Almazan 7, Tiu 7, Norwood 7, Chism 6, Chan 6, Belga 4, Tang 2, Teng 0
Air21 (82) – Witherspoon 23, Taulava 15, Poligrates 13, Anthony 9, Villanueva 9, Yeo 8, Cardona 4, Borboran 1, Ramos 0, Burtscher 0.
Quarterscores: 18-13, 43-33, 62-55, 87-82