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Rain or Shine Elasto Painters 109
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Talk N Text Tropang Texters 97
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RAIN OR SHINE NOW IN FRONT, 2-1

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JUST when Rain or Shine’s top player was seemingly taken out of the game for good came a couple of Elasto Painters to the rescue.

Jeff Chan and Jericho Cruz took turns helping out Wayne Chism as Rain or Shine beat Talk N Text,  109-97, Sunday for a 2-1 lead in their PBA Commissioner’s Cup championship series at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Notwithstanding a hurting right foot Chan scattered seven of his 12 points in the third period and Cruz 10 of his 14 in the fourth enabling the Elasto Painters to keep their heads when the Tropang Texters trimmed what was once a 22-point deficit to just 13.

As a result, Rain or Shine followed up its 116-108 win in Game 2 and now has history on its side in the best-of-seven duel.

In similar race-to-four finals, 24 of 39 teams which took a 2-1 lead after a split went on to win the title. Ditto for consecutive game winners which has six of the last seven teams which won back-to-back matches also copping the crown.

“We played fantastic defense. We can attribute this win tonight to the fact everybody worked hard on defense,” said E-Painters coach Yeng Guiao, whose team held TNT to just a 31-for-80 field goal shooting.

“It’s just our determination to play good defense.”

For TNT coach Jong Uichico, the reverse is true. “We gave up too many points,” he said.

“Our total points would have been enough to win a regular game, but then we cannot win after giving up more at this stage.”

The victory may be a costly one, however, as Paul Lee found himself on the receiving end of a driving Ivan Johnson elbow that left the former with a bloodied mouth, one tooth knocked out and two others pushed inside his gum.

Lee sat out the final 5:06 of the third period. He returned with still 4:15 left in the game and added an assist and two points to wind up with 17 points and five assists in a little over 23 minutes of action.

“Paul Lee lost a tooth but we won the game, so okay na rin,” said Guiao.

Lee’s status for the next game Wednesday could be doubtful, however.

Guiao remains unperturbed but still warned about the physicality in the series getting out of hand, especially now that blood has been spilled.

Johnson finished with 30 points and 14 rebounds, with 11 of his points coming in the fourth period that stoked TNT’s charge to within 90-103 after the Texters trailed by as much as 71-93.

Jayson Castro capped a 20-pointfour-assist night with a drive that kept TNT within 94-107, but Lee escaped a double team for his own drive, practically sealing the outcome with just under two minutes left.

Ironically, it was when Lee was in the locker room receiving first aid treatment that Rain or Shine displayed its finest charge yet by steadily padding on to what was a 16-point 69-53 lead to 84-65 after three quarters behind Chism and Chan.

It was an ending that was seemed highly unlikely in the early goings.

Although Rain or Shine got off to a fine start and posted an early 17-4 spread, TNT grittily battled back and seemed to have gained more momentum when Kevin Alas made a double-clutch three-pointer at the buzzer to make it 45-52 at the half.

Back-to-back baskets by Johnson and Castro even put the Texters within 51-56 before Chism completed a three-point play while Beau Belga and Lee boomed in a triple each during a 13-2 surge that made it 69-53. (NC)

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