RAIN or Shine has the edge in both chemistry and health over Talk ‘N Text, factors which the Elasto Painters hope they could take advantage of as the PBA Commissioner’s Cup Finals finally get going on Wednesday night at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Playing like a well-oiled machine and just about everybody – with the exception of Jeff Chan – in the pink of health, the top-seeded Elasto Painters have so far lived up to their billing as they remained unscathed in the playoffs with a 4-0 record.
Rain or Shine nipped Barangay Ginebra in the quarterfinals, 92-91, before scoring a three-game sweep of Meralco in the semifinals to reach the championship round for the fifth time over the last nine conferences.
“We have made our fifth Finals appearance in the last nine conferences, but this is the most healthy we’ve had in all the five finals that we have made,” admitted coach Yeng Guiao heading into the team’s 7 p.m. encounter against Talk ‘N Text.
“That (Rain or Shine’s health) in itself is a good indication when you make the Finals. Though before you get there, it’s so physically taxing, it’s just tiring physically and mentally because by the time you get to the Finals, you get some injuries before you pull it through.”
Chan so far is the only casualty for a Rain or Shine team that has won nine of its last 10 contests since returning import Wayne Chism replaced Rick Jackson.
Chan, the sweet-shooting Gilas Pilipinas mainstay, has missed the team’s last two semifinal games due to a leg injury.
Talk ‘N Text has had Rain or Shine’s number the last three seasons, enjoying a 12-3 win-loss record in their head-to-head duel.
But that has no effect on Guiao, who likes the Elasto Painters’ chances when they are the underdogs.
“Talk ‘N Text is still a strong team, and whether it’s Talk ‘N Text or Purefoods we play in the Finals, we’ll still be the underdogs though that’s really our niche,” he said.
“We like to be underdogs. We’re comfortable being the underdogs.”
Both teams had one common denominator for reaching this far in the mid-season tournament: the Elasto Painters and Tropang Texters thrived on three-point shooting.
Heading to the best-of-seven series, Talk n Text leads the conference in three-point shooting percentage (36.94), while Rain or Shine is not doing badly with its 33.47 percent clip.
Jayson Castro, on track for a third Best Player of the Conference award, along with Larry Fonacier, Ranidel de Ocampo, Jay Washington, and import Ivan Johnson are all capable of shooting from beyond the arc.
But majority of Guiao’s boys can score from beyond the arc, too.
Chism, Chris Tiu, Chan, Beau Belga, JR Quinahan, Paul Lee, and Jonathan Uyloan all average 30 percent or higher from the three-point zone.
Talk ‘N Text coach Jong Uichico said the Tropang Texters intend to start the series strong, knowing the team that wins Game One puts the burden of adjustment on the other squad.
“In any series, Game One is always important. You’ll have the advantage in a lot of things, including adjustments,” said Uichico, who is bidding to join an elite roster of coaches who have won championships with three different teams.
Uichico has won six titles with San Miguel Beer and two with Barangay Ginebra.