RAIN or Shine leaned on a torrid third-quarter scoring explosion and an airtight defense in manhandling an off-form Meralco side, 106-81, on Sunday night before sellout crowd in the PBA Philippine Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Bolts were in the game up until the first three minutes of the third period, before the Elasto Painters went on a vicious 11-1 tear behind Ryan Arana’s red-hot shooting to establish a huge 59-37 lead.
Things only got worse for the Bolts from there. In fact, in the third quarter alone, the Bolts turned the ball over six times, giving the Elasto Painters more transition points as they extended their lead to 75-45.
“Meralco is one of the hottest teams in the league right now. I’m really surprised that we beat them in the manner that we beat them today,” said Rain or Shine coach Yeng Guiao.
"I was looking forward to a tight endgame struggle tonight. But I think early on, we were able to run our breaks, then cause some turnovers, and we broke away from Meralco from that point on."
Guiao added that their focal point on defense coming into the game were against Meralco’s three-guard scorers led by Sol Mercado, Macmac Cardona and Ronjay Buenafe, whom the Elasto Painters dealt to the Bolts during the offseason.
The Rain or Shine’s boys didn’t disappoint, stifling the Mercado-Cardona-Buenafe trio to a combined 16-of-43 field goal shooting. The trio finished the game with 40 points, but most of the points came when Rain or Shine had already put the game beyond doubt.
“We were ready to play the guard matchups because the top three scorers of this team are the guards. Our defenders really did a good job on them today. That’s the key. We did not let them get their usual confidence and rhythm in the past four games that they won,” added Guiao.
Rain or Shine’s unforgiving defense held Meralco to just 36.4 percent shooting (32-of-88). The Elasto Painters also forced the Bolts into 17 turnovers which they translated to 25 points. Guiao’s charges also had a huge 23-10 edge in the fastbreak department.
The Elasto Painters, who enjoyed their biggest lead at 94-61 on a basket by Jireh Ibanes in the final period, tied the Alaska Aces in second spot with their 5-2 record. The Bolts dropped to 4-3.
Guiao said their 77-80 loss to league-leader Talk ‘N Text in the PBA’s second road game in Victorias City recently gave them the motivation to start out strong.
“We felt that we really played a good game against Talk ‘N Text. Nanghihinayang din kami because Talk ‘N Text is a very good team. So one way to redeem ourselves is to play our best against the hottest team in the league right now,” he said.
Rain or Shine’s 25-point win on Sunday night was its biggest blowout victory since registering a 113-83 demolition of Shopinas Clickers (now Air21) on March 16.
Ibanes, who did a fine job shutting down Buenafe, led the Elasto Painters with 23 points while adding two steals, two assists and the same number of rebounds.
Big man Beau Belga added 16 markers, while Arana and JR Quinahan chipped in 15 and 10, respectively.
Mercado, who came into the game averaging a league-best 20.8 points per game, was held to just nine.
Rain or Shine 106 - Ibanes 23, Belga 16, Arana 15, Quinahan 10, Tang 9, Cruz 8, Chan 7, Rodriguez 7, Norwood 6, Matias 5, Uyloan 0, Jaime 0
Meralco 81 - Cardona 20, Salvacion 14, Buenafe 11, Hodge 9, Mercado 9, Hugnatan 6, Bulawan 5, Borboran 4, Reyes 3, Belencion 0, Sharma 0, Artadi 0
Quarterscores: 25-19, 41-28, 80-53, 106-81