MANILA: GRACE B. CASTILLO
Published — Thursday 15 August 2013
Last update 20 August 2013 5:32 am
No Jeff Chan and no Gabe Norwood? No problem.
Fighting off the urge to play the two Gilas Pilipinas standouts, Rain or Shine coach Yeng Guiao got huge performances from the others in a 79-75 decision of San Mig Coffee Wednesday night that allowed the Elasto Painters to open defense of their PBA Governors’ Cup title on a high note.
Import Arizona Reid scored 28 points and plucked down 20 rebounds to make up for 10 errors in the game and lead the Painters to a rousing debut at the Mall of Asia Arena against the very same team they conquered in a classic seven-game series last season.
Paul Lee, who wasn’t in the last five games of that series because of a dislocated shoulder, scattered 12 points, including three free throws inside the final 39.7 seconds that gave the Painters a three-point lead.
Marqus Blakely, San Mig’s hardworking import who was also here last year, played the goat for the Mixers, committing a crucial traveling violation and throwing up an airball of a three-pointer in the dying seconds that sealed their doom.
“There were scary moments for us out there, but we stayed tough,” Rain or Shine coach Yeng Guiao, who won a seat as a Representative of the first district of Pampanga in the last elections, said.
“I had to hold back from using Jeff and Gabe. I know they wanted to go out there and contribute,” continued Guiao. “I took a gamble (on not using them) and it’s a good thing it paid off.”
Guiao said that Chan and Norwood had had just one practice with the Painters – on Tuesday afternoon – in the last three months since joining the National squad.
“In the third quarter, when we lost out outside touch, I thought that Jeff was the right man to take over,” Guiao said. “And when Blakely was torching us, I thought Gabe was a perfect match.
“But not playing them is still our contribution to the National team,” added Guiao. “A win is important to us, but we were thinking of the long term effect it could have on those players.”
Blakely scored 12 of his 26 points in the third quarter as the Mixers surged to a 61-58 lead going into the fourth. San Mig even raced to a 69-60 lead midway through the final frame only for the Painters to come charging back.
Beau Belga, the last cut in the Gilas Pilipinas national five, drilled his only three-pointer for the game with 2:35 left which made it 73-all, before the Mixers grabbed the lead for the last time in their next possession following a Mark Barroca layup, 75-73, 1:48 left.
Chris Tiu then finished off a fastbreak coming off a Reid outlet with 64 seconds remaining, before Lee, last year’s top rookie, gave the Painters a two-point lead by hitting the first of those free throws off Blakely with 39 seconds on the clock.
Blakely traveled after that while trying to shake off Belga, and after Lee drained another charity, the San Mig import tossed up a triple try that hit nothing but air.
“AZ (Reid) got frustrated because he couldn’t hit an outside shot,” Guiao said of his import’s 10 errors. “But he buckled down to chasing down rebounds and scoring on putbacks, which is where he is best at.”
Former two-time MVP James Yap was an atrocious sight for the Mixers, hitting just 1-of-14 field goal tries on the way to eight points.
Peter June Simon was also held down to harmless numbers by the Rain or Shine defense, finishing with just nine points.
Sharing opening day honors with Rain or Shine was Globalport, which carved out a 101-94 decision of Air21 in the first game.
Import Markeith Cummings tossed in 37 markers that went with 11 rebounds and three steals and the newest Batang Pier, the veteran Jay Washington, had 15 points and nine boards.
Globalport won its conference-opening game for the second straight time, and is within another victory of matching a franchise-best two wins chalked up in the last Commissioner’s Cup where it went 2-1 after three games only to lose their remaining 11 assignments.
Zach Graham paced the Express with 31 points and 10 boards, and Nino Canaleta added 19 with Mark Isip chipping in 10.