Rain or Shine blew a big fourth quarter lead before holding off TNT, 106-102, to setup a rubber match for a slot in the 2017 PBA Governors’ Cup semifinals Wednesday at Mall of Asia Arena.
J’Nathan Bullock had game-highs 31 points and 15 rebounds while Gabe Norwood made his presence felt on both ends of the floor with 15 points, nine rebounds, six assists, two steals and a block for the Elasto Painters.
“We just extended the series. I told the players it’s all about who wants it more on the defensive side,” said ROS head coach Caloy Garcia after his team survived a 20-3 run by TNT in the final frame.
Norwood anchored Rain or Shine’s defense against TNT’s prolific import Glen Rice Jr., who shot 8-of-28 from the field to finish with only 19 points and 10 rebounds with six turnovers.
Rice struggled but remained aggressive. His two free throws and dunk over Raymond Almazan pushed the KaTropa within three, 105-102, with 30.2 seconds left.
Norwood hit a free throw after that for a four-point cushion and Rain or Shine was able to make a stop as time ran out.
“With the experience of Kelly (Williams), Ryan (Reyes) and Jayson (Castro), they were able to come back,” Garcia said.
The do-or-die duel is on Friday at Smart Araneta Coliseum with the Painters looking to reassert their mastery over the KaTropa, whom they blew out by 32 points in the eliminations last month.