Photo by Josh Albelda/Rappler
MANILA, Philippines - While many have doubted Wayne Chism's ability to carry the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters, head coach Yeng Guiao never doubted his faith in the import one bit.
In Chism, Guiao got what he wanted - a reinforcement who could deliver on offense and put on the clamps on the defensive end. Chism did well on both sides of the hardcourt, sheltering the paint and preventing any easy hoops, particularly in the crucial overtime period against Ginebra on Sunday. He also drained several key triples, showing what he is really capable of doing.
And Rain or Shine survived, 105-101.
"A lot of people were giving up on my import, but me and the team are the only ones not giving up on him," said Guiao after the come-from-behind victory that allowed them to capture the 4th seed.
The emergence of Paul Lee, who vowed to bounce back after a heartbreaking finals loss against San Mig Coffee in the last conference, has been a main storyline in the Commissioner's Cup, as reflected by a team-high 13.88 PPG. Lee can create offense in numerous ways, making him lethal in the clutch.
But the Meralco Bolts stand in their way. Returning to the playoffs after falling short in the all-Filipino conference, the 5th-seeded Bolts are also eager to end their title drought, and they brought a formidable line-up for that mission.
Coach Ryan Gregorio's troops has a lot of weapons in their fold too. Gary David, Cliff Hodge, Reynel Hugnatan and Jared Dillinger all score at least 7 points a game. To complete the quest, the Bolts brought in Darnell Jackson (28.7 PPG, 13.7 RPG) who gives them more toughness inside and the leadership they need.
With both teams stacked in the middle of the team standings, this match-up looms to be one of the closest and could be the most grueling. Meralco may have enjoyed rest, but it is hardly a factor when you're up against a physical Rain or Shine crew who doesn't know the meaning of surrendering.
Jeff Chan (11.3 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 2.1 APG) vs Gary David (15.3 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 2.3 SPG)
David is the Bolts' best-scoring local; he's finished in double-digits in points in all but one of nine elimination games, but he is only shooting 22.5% from beyond the arc. Chan meanwhile may be inconsistent with his scoring but is firing at a 36.6% rate from downtown. If the series boils down to the long range shot, then these two men might spell the difference.
Gabe Norwood (7.8 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 3.1 APG) vs Jared Dillinger (12.1 PPG, 3.3 RPG,3 APG)
Norwood will be playing against the man he edged for the No.1 overall pick honors back in 2008. Both of them are energy guys who like to do it all. Norwood's defense - something he has been applauded for while with Gilas Pilipinas - is critical while Dillinger, who is averaging 12 more points in wins (19 PPG) compared to losses (7 PPG) and 18.5 PPG in their last two wins, is a terrific mismatch creator. Both guys need not to fill the stat sheets that much but their intangibles are extremely important in this quarterfinal pairing.
Rain or Shine: Beau Belga
Belga's presence alone is already vital but Guiao's premier big man, quite literally, can hurt you with big shots down the stretch.
Meralco: Cliff Hodge
Talk about energy and Cliff Hodge will be among the first names on top of the list. He is Meralco's top rebounding local with 6.2 boards per night, and he should spell hustle for the Bolts.
Which import will turn in a better performance?
Darnell Jackson is given a leader who will give you 30 and 15 each night. Wayne Chism finally erased doubts after a 30-point, 15-rebound, 5-block explosion against the Kings. It will be a neck and neck battle between the two, but if Chism will play the way he did against Ginebra especially on defense, Jackson will have to be more creative.
This series is as evenly matched as they come. Guiao would like his E-Painters to show up aggressive and bully their opponents, while Gregorio will look to counter with his own weapons. Meralco wants to keep the score high (98.2 PPG in wins) while Rain or Shine is keen on shutting down their foes (83 PPG allowed in wins). The Bolts' offensive prowess may just be their best defense, but Norwood thinks otherwise.
"The biggest thing for us is playing defense."
Rain or Shine in 3. - Rappler.com