IT'S DOWN TO THIS LAST GAME
The bravado is still there for Rain or Shine coach Yeng Guiao who is keeping his faith that their “dare to dream” will become a reality.
But B-Meg, a jaded lot with championship pedigree, has seized the momentum and is all set for the kill.
The Elasto Painters take their final shot at franchise history while the Llamados try to relive an achievement last pulled off when they were mere toddlers when both ballclubs dispute the Philippine Basketball Association Governors’ Cup crown — the 106th to be contested at the end of the league’s 37th season — at the Smart Araneta Coliseum today.
“Na-delay lang nun, na-delay lang ulit,” said Guiao, unperturbed, unmoved and the least alarmed that his Elasto Painters may be fading in this best-of-seven showdown which they had comfortably led at 3-1 before the more experienced Llamados mowed them down the last two games.
“To me, it’s just another game (referring to Game 7). It’s just another chance to win a championship. The advantage of going up 3-1 is you can lose two (games) and still make adjustments,” Guiao confidently said, keeping the dream that Rain or Shine could still claim its first PBA title since joining the league in 2006.
But Guiao is pinning his hopes on a team in which no player has even figured in a PBA Finals, much more a tension-filled, winner-take-all Game 7 like the one that will be hotly-contested today.
Worse, waiting for them in ambush is B-Meg which is not only brandishing nine PBA titles, traced back to the time when it was still known as Purefoods, but is also coming off a titular success in the previous Commissioner’s Cup against a far more grizzled lot in the Talk ‘N Text Tropang Texters.
It was also a Game 7 thriller that the Llamados forced into overtime on a pair of free throws from import Denzel Bowles, with only 1.2 seconds remaining, before they razed the Tropang Texters to the ground in extra time to win, 90-84.
That is probably why Cone, himself seeking a place in history, has done away with all the emotions that engulfed their 91-81 triumph in Game 6 and chose only to look ahead at Game 7.
“(Game 6) is not an indication of what Game 7 will be. Game 7 will be a huge battle, basically an all-out war,” said Cone, who could tie the winningest coach in the 37 years of the PBA, Baby Dalupan, with a 15th title. He previously had 14 in his 21 years with Alaska and that Commissioner’s Cup crown this season with the Llamados.
Conspicuously, he did not make any mention of that personal aspiration in Game 6’s post-game interview.
But he did wax philosophical about it all, saying “losing 3-4 is just like losing 0-4.”
And while he didn’t hear Guiao’s assertion that Rain or Shine had bought enough time to make adjustments when they went on a 3-1 start in this Finals series, Cone dug back into his championship-laden career when he said: “It’s not going to be a game of adjustments anymore. It will be a game of heart.”
“We have to get back to what we do best — that’s defense,” Cone underscored.
But statistics-wise, Guiao was resigned to the fact that the Llamados has been clobbering them off the boards, particularly in Game 6.
His Elasto Painters were outrebounded by their foes, 33 to 56, a disadvantage he acknowledged when he said: “It’s our perennial problem, rebounding again, we lost by 23 rebounds. We’re having problems with their size and length and they shot well outside.”
Indeed, the Llamados shot a lot better.
With import Marques Blakely and Jonas Villanueva leading the way with three triples each, the Llamados conjured 11 three-pointers in Game 6, claiming a huge 18-point difference over the Elasto Painters who could only have five triples.
Worse, the Elasto Painters’ poor 5-of-28 clip from the three-point area meant that they relinquished 23 attempts at making a basket as against the Llamados who turned in a fine 11-of-26 clip.
“They were shooting their threes a lot better. We need to make adjustments in practice,” Guiao noted.