Rain or Shine's Chris Tiu believes PBA is more physical than NBA

Manila, Philippines – “It was a very physical, rugged game.”

Those were the words uttered by Rain or Shine Elasto Painters head coach Yeng Guiao following his team’s 102-93 brutal victory over the Meralco Bolts to stay alive in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup quarterfinals on Wednesday. 

But to be honest, Guiao’s description of Game 2 was putting it nicely, given the reputation that precedes his choice of words, and how the tussle turned out to be.

Other than a profusion of bumpy fouls, Game 2 between the Elasto Painters and Bolts also featured a collision between two players – Paul Lee and Cliff Hodge – that left both guys down on the floor, clutching their knees in what we can only assume was a whirlwind of pain. Meanwhile, in the third quarter, a crash between ROS import Wayne Chism and Meralco local player Jared Dillinger left the latter getting an appointment in the hospital right after the game, which is never a welcome sight for any professional athlete.

And to top it all off, Hodge, who wasn’t exactly in the best of moods all throughout the contest, landed a closed fist punch on rookie Raymond Almazan with 35 seconds left on the game clock, which the PBA eventually deemed a flagrant-two foul and a 20,000 pesos ($448 USD) fine. Unfortunately, though, Hodge’s punishment from the league’s higher authorities did not transpire before a certain comment from someone, who isn’t shy to express his opinions, spread all over the country.

“Mongoloid,” Hodge was called by Yeng Guiao, who ensured to have a little chat with the Meralco player after the game. One word, which was also followed by its own fine from Commissioner Salud’s office: 100,000 pesos ($2,240 USD).

If the events of the series’ first two games and their co-curricular ventures are any indication, then PBA fans can expect another classic dogfight between both squads when they square off tonight, April 26 at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum. 

And that’s exactly what a marksman of one of the teams expects come game time.

“They allow a lot physicality, they allow a lot of grabbing, and you just have to adjust and just play within the bounds of the rules,” says Chris Tiu, one of Rain or Shine’s contributors off the bench. 

“Hopefully, we’ll be the better team.”

On the physicality of the series

Chris Tiu is no stranger to physicality – and a couple of bumps and bruises along the way. Since his days as the go-to-guy of the Ateneo Blue Eagles in the UAAP, the three-point-shooting expert has gotten accustomed to what it’s like to be the target of opposing defenses during games. Furthermore, banging bodies with the “Extra Rice Boys” in practice daily isn’t exactly a walk in the park, not to mention having to guard the beefy and gritty Paul Lee. 

However, a number of hard, playoff fouls – and some cheap shots – can have its ramifications on certain players. Basketball pundits witnessed it when the Bad Boy Pistons made life hell for Michael Jordan, which was somewhat duplicated by the UST Growling Tigers when they shut down two-time UAAP MVP Bobby Ray Parks during the league’s most recent Final Four tournament.

Tiu, a hardened veteran who’s had his own share of physical battles, knows the ruggedness is inevitable – especially with the hatred brewing between both sides reaching boiling point. 

“Of course, it’s not supposed to throw it out of your rhythm; there are instances when you cannot avoid it,” says the former PBA three-point champion. “But I think Rain or Shine is used to it. Most PBA teams have become accustomed to it over the last few years. All the playoff matches are very physical, especially as seen in our last game: a lot of injuries, a lot of confrontations. It’s part of the game and it’s the way the PBA works. “

And the way the PBA works now, according to the two-time UAAP champion, has become so blue-collar that it surpasses the level of physicality of the biggest basketball league in the world.

“I mean, in the NBA you don’t see this kind of physicality or even – I don’t know – Euroleague is quite physical,” Tiu mentions. “But here in the Philippines, it’s a little bit more, uhm, magulang (adult). Sometimes it can get dirty, but that’s the way it is. That’s the way the fans like it also. As players, we just have to play through it, play above it, and take care of ourselves.”

Tiu had six points off the bench for the Yeng Guiao-coached club in Game 2, providing his long-range shooting expertise and ability to spread the floor. However, the biggest takeaway from the Elasto Painters’ victory was their ability to force the Bolts into turning the ball over – 24. While playing rough has its cons, it has benefited Rain or Shine in the ball-protection battle. And if taking a few bumps and scratches mean forcing Meralco to cough up the handle, then rest assured the Elasto Painters won’t be afraid to hand out and receive punishment when today’s clock hits 2:45 PM.

On “mongoloid,” and playing for Yeng Guiao

Tiu admitted that he wasn’t fully aware of the incident that took place between his play-caller and Meralco’s feisty player. Though he did say that regardless of the specific details of Coach Guiao’s antics, it just comes down to a very important aspect in the game of basketball: mind games.

“He plays with your mind, whether you’re in his team or when you’re in the other team,” says Tiu, who noted that he’s also received some scoldings from his at-times choleric coach. “What I know is Coach Yeng is tough to play for. I think he brings out the best of his players. He’s an excellent motivator.”

And despite the tough challenges, infuriated lectures, and frightening stares that come with playing for someone like Coach Yeng, Tiu calls it an “honor” to be mentored by his current master.

“I am very, very thankful, and very much honored to be playing for coach Yeng. He’s a tough guy, but he’s a straight guy. No BS guy. He’ll tell to your face what you deserve to hear as a player,” adds Tiu, who also said that Guiao’s ability to create a lot out of not much is the major reason why many look at him as a basketball genius.

“I mean, we’re not the highest paid team, we’re not a bunch of superstars, but he’s able to develop athletes to who they are today, and I respect him for that.”

So, how does he do it? How does Coach Yeng manage to obtain the best out of his players, given their lack of overall talent and athletic abilities?

Chris Tiu, like he does often on the basketball court, has the answer:

“He will scold you when you’re not following instructions, but he will also motivate you the way he should as a coach. And I think that explains why he can bring out the best of his players.”

The Rain or Shine Elasto Painters: The San Antonio Spurs of the PBA?

When asked what to expect from the Elasto Painters in Game 3, Tiu was very straightforward with his response, stating that the country can expect the team to display “Rain or Shine-brand of basketball,” before resembling his squad’s type of performance to that of the San Antonio Spurs, which finished the 2013-2014 NBA Regular Season with the best record in the league. 

“I like to think of us as the San Antonio Spurs – whether they’re up by 20, down by 20, they play the same way,” says Tiu. “That’s our model and that’s the team we try to emulate. Of course, we’re nowhere close to that. But I think that’s somewhere to aim towards.”

So, is Yeng Guiao – knowledgeable, silent, and controversial – Gregg Popovich?

“I’d like to think that,” laughs Tiu.

While ROS’ physical style of play screams Bad Boy Pistons more than it does Finesse Spurs, there’s no questioning how the Elasto Painters manage to get so much contributions from its roster despite the lack of talent, similar to San Antonio’s effective offensive onslaught, which is composed of second-round draft picks, NBA journeymen, and other past no-names. 

And like the Spurs, the former Gilas Team Captain hopes his PBA squad can also duplicate their winning ways, as they look to make up for their disappointing outcome in the All-Filipino Conference, where they lost to the San Mig Coffee Mixers in the Finals.

“Hopefully, we will try to redeem what happened to us in the Finals of the All-Filipino Cup. But for this conference, we just want to focus on Game 3 first. It’s a do-or-die game,” says Tiu, as Rain or Shine hopes to delay making vacation plans. 

“With the guys in our team, the leadership, and the organization, hopefully we can bring another championship.”

Tonight will tell. - Rappler.com