For a long while, San Miguel Beer was drenching Rain or Shine with triples.
When the game was on the line, however, it was the Elasto Painters’ turn to drain the shots that mattered most, enabling them to fashion a come-from-behind 113-110 victory Saturday and even up their PBA Governors Cup semifinals duel at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Wendell McKines laced his game highs of 53 points and 17 rebounds with one crucial steal while Gabe Norwood and Jeff Chan preserved their import’s monster game with the baskets that capped their fightback from 20 points down.
With McKines drawing the defense, Norwood buried an elbow jumper that knitted the count for the last time at 110 before Chan turned McKines’ swipe off Arizona Reid into a right corner triple for the go-ahead basket right in front of the Rain or Shine bench.
The Beermen were left with 7.6 seconds to map out a game-tying play, but their hopes were totally quashed when Alex Cabagnot was forced into a double-pump triple from the right corner that hit the back iron.
The victory not only razed the memories of Rain or Shine’s 95-101 loss in the best-of-five series’ opener last Thursday, when the E-Painters blew two 24-point leads, but also turned the matchup into a race-to-two.
Winning coach Yeng Guiao said it was all about his team playing out what God seemed to have ordained. “I’ve been coaching a long time and this is one of the best comebacks I’ve ever coached,” he said.
“We survived the incredible three-point shooting of (Marcio) Lassiter and the whole San Miguel Beer team. This is a God-given game. Only God can write a story this way. Bigay lang ng Diyos ito, nagtrabaho lang kami.”
Indeed, SMB was on fire for majority of the game after sinking 21 of their first 25 three-point shots. Lassiter was the hottest after making 10 of 13 three-point tries and Reid going 7-for-11.
Lassiter’s last bomb gave him a career-high 31 points and the Beermen a 110-104 spread, 3:12 left to play.
“We just hung in there,” related Guiao. “We just fine-tuned our defense. All I wanted was that if we’re not going to win today we just want to fine-tune our defense.”
And while Rain or Shine’s defense clicked into place and held SMB to flub their last six offensive thrusts, McKines finished what he has been doing all game long by leading the E-Painters’ comeback with a follow up dunk and a short stab that made it just a two-point game with still 1:28 to play.
“Pay tribute to McKines, his big heart, and to the players who hung on,” offered Guiao. “A team made of lesser stuff would have broken down with the torrid shooting of SMB. A game like this is really won by character. Character lang talaga nagdala sa team namin.”
Reid wound up with 33 points and 11 rebounds while June Mar Fajardo added 15 points and nine rebounds and Arwind Santos 11 and seven.
JR Quinahan’s 11 points and Jireh Ibanes’ 10 were the only other double digit scoring for Rain or Shine. Paul Lee, usually good for close to 15 points, was held down to nine and Chan finished with six.
The finish was highly unexpected after SMB picked up from where it left off in the first half by going on a 23-8 tear in the first six minutes of the third period to take a 76-56 bulge.
In that span, Lassiter had four of the Beermen’s six triples and even completed a rare four-point play that pulled them out of a tighter 53-48 halftime count.
It was just that McKines would not allow his team to just wilt by scoring 15 points, touched off by two three-point plays, and almost single-handedly pulling Rain or Shine within 77-89.
Lassiter was far from done, however, as he hit the first four triples of the fourth to keep SMB ahead by 14, the last at 103-89.
But there was simply no quit in the E-Painters, notwithstanding Beau Belga joining the injured Jervy Cruz on the sidelines to rest the right ankle he rolled in Game One.
With the two Rain or Shine frontliners out and Raymond Almazan listless in his initial stint on the floor, Guiao was forced to go mostly with Quinahan, a matchup Fajardo exploited for 10 first half points.
It was clearly Reid who showed the way for SMB.
After going 0-for-6 from behind the arc in the series opener, Reid already had five at the half, with two coming during a surge that broke SMB away from a 40-all standoff and into the five-point cushion at the turn.
It was not only Reid who was hot from three-point land as Santos accounted for two and Ronald Tubid and Lassiter one each in the first half for the Beermen, who missed only eight of their first 17 attempts from deep.
McKines would not let Rain or Shine be shaken off so easily, however, as he put up 20 points in the first 24 minutes of play and kept the 2012 champion hanging in there. (NC)
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