Painters eye 3-0 lead over Hotshots

JAMES Yap of Rain or Shine shoots over Robert Herndon of Magnolia during Game 2 of their Philippine Basketball Association best-of-seven semifinal series late Sunday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum. (Contributed photo)

Rain or Shine seeks a 3-0 lead against Magnolia in Game 3 of their Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Philippine Cup best-of-seven semifinal series Tuesday night at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Action starts at 7 p.m. with the Elasto Painters bidding to make their first finals appearance since 2016.

The Elasto Painters have proven that they are championship-ready as they asserted their dominance in the first two games against the league’s best defensive team in Magnolia.

In fact, Rain or Shine had limited Magnolia to only 78.5 points in their first two battles.

“Our defense has been the key in this series. We were able to slow them down, especially their guards,” said Garcia, who is looking for his finals debut since taking over from Yeng Guiao three years ago.

But more than their scrappy defense, Garcia pointed out that it was their unpredictable and balanced attacks as the major differences in this series.

With their Beau Belga, Gabe Norwood and James Yap embracing supporting roles, it was the shock troopers led by Ed Daquioag, Norbert Torres, Rey Nambatac and rookie Javee Mocon, who have been torching the Hotshots.

Mocon and Nambatac led the way for Rain or Shine in Game 1 while Daquioag and Torres had their turns in Game 2 with 19 and 16 points, respectively.

“Everybody is stepping up. It’s about trusting each other ever since the elimination round. It’s paying off here in the semis,” he said.

“But it’s all about consistency. If we can be consistent the rest of the series, we’ll be good.”

With the momentum now on their side, Garcia braces for a tough Game 3, which would either make or break their chances with a potential 3-0 lead heading into the Lenten break.

“Game 3 is the key. It is crucial for us because if we can win Game 3 heading into the long break, then that would be great. If we lose, that would give Magnolia a week-long preparation, which is scary,” added Garcia.

Still, that bid would not be a walk in the park as Garcia anticipates a Magnolia fightback in Game 3 in a bid to trim the series deficit and dodge a deep 0-3 hole.

“It’s still a long series and we know that Magnolia is capable to come back. If you notice, they rested their starters in the fourth quarter because they are already bracing for Game 3,” he said.

“We just have to be ready.”

p: wjg