RAIN or Shine’s defense held San Mig Coffee to just a single field goal in the final eight minutes to pull off a hard-earned 79-75 come-from-behind victory on Wednesday night, kicking off its PBA Governors Cup title retention bid on a high note at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Returnee Arizona Reid terrorized the Mixers’ taller frontline behind a double-double production of 28 points and 20 rebounds to cover up for the absence of Gilas standouts Gabe Norwood and Jeff Chan, who suited up but didn’t play in the rematch between last year’s Finals protagonists in the season-ending conference.
“We just stayed tough till the end. It was just the desire of the boys to defend this title that we have,” winning coach Yeng Guiao said at the end of a bruising match, the type the Painters thrive in.
“I just held back from using Gabe and Jeff. I know they wanted to play and to contribute, but we’re looking at the long term here.”
Norwood and Chan played key roles in Gilas Pilipinas’ rousing runner-up finish in the 27th Fiba-Asia Championship that earned the national team a berth to next year’s Fiba-World Cup in Spain.
Guiao said using Norwood and Chan crossed his mind during the latter part of the third period when San Mig uncorked a vicious run that allowed the Mixers to turn a nine-point deficit into a 61-54 lead.
“Nag-a-alangan ako kanina, but I just took the gamble. Of course, winning is the top priority. There’s still some euphoria after the Gilas win so it’s really hard to focus for today,” added the outspoken Rain or Shine mentor, who was slapped with a technical foul during the early part of the third period for continuous complaining.
Guiao said he was glad Reid regained his focus by working hard off the glass despite shooting terribly in the game.
“AZ (Reid’s nickname) kind of got frustrated because he couldn’t make his outside shots. He just worked hard off the rebounds and second shots and put backs. That’s what he’s good at anyway, so it’s just nice
to get it over with in the beginning,” noted Guiao.
Marqus Blakely, another comebacking import this conference, led the Mixers with 26 points and 20 rebounds, but his turnovers in the final 30 seconds of play, including an air-ball three-point shot, hastened San Mig’s downfall.
Rain or Shine (79) -- Reid 28, Lee 12, Tiu 10, Arana 7, Matias 5, Tang 5, Belga 5, Cruz 2, Jaime 2, Rodriguez 2, Quinahan 1, Uyloan 0, Ibanes 0.
San Mig Coffee( 75) -- Blakely 26, Barroca 11, Mallari 9, Simon 9, Yap 8, Acuna 7, Devance 3, De Ocampo 2, Gaco 0, Najorda 0, Reavis 0.
Quarterscores: 20-18; 40-35; 58-61; 79-75.