PBA semis preview: Red-hot Rain or Shine, bullstrong Petron collide anew
MANILA, Philippines - And then there were four.
Action in the PLDT Home DSL PBA Philippine Cup heats up as only four teams remain, all vying for the elusive All-Filipino crown. With the fall of three-peat champions Talk 'N Text, all four squads will do what it takes to covet the prestigious Jun Bernardino trophy.
Petron Blaze and Rain or Shine both jockeyed for position in the home stretch of the elimination round; the Elasto Painters got the twice-to-beat edge while the Boosters had to sweep Barako Bull to advance.
Just last conference, the Elijah Millsap-powered Petron Blaze Boosters dominated Arizona Reid's Rain or Shine Elasto Painters, 3 games to 1 in the best-of-5 2013 Governors Cup semifinals.
However, with Rain or Shine riding on an 8-game winning run, expect a different script in the Philippine Cup edition of this battle. Petron, led by the hulking June Mar Fajardo and reigning MVP Arwind Santos, will try to duplicate that dominance and shut the E-Painters once again.
Philippine Cup head-to-head: Rain or Shine leads, 1-0.
Why Rain or Shine will win: The Elasto Painters were chiefly responsible for ending Petron's 7-0 start in the Philippine Cup. With everyone in Coach Yeng Guiao's system working wonders, Rain or Shine will be pretty hard to stop. Anyone from the Painters' can explode for Guiao. Big men Belga and Quiñahan had their clutch moments this season. At one point even all three of its rookies led Rain or Shine to victory.
Why Petron Blaze will win: June Mar Fajardo is becoming the next dominant big man in the league, and his 15 PPG, 15.3 RPG numbers are more than enough proof. With the E-Painters' frontline a bit undersized, it looks like Fajardo will have a great game more often than not. Joining him are reigning MVP Arwind Santos, shooters Chris Lutz and Marcio Lassiter, and Alex Cabagnot (13.5 PPG, 5 RPG, 6.5 APG) who has given Petron a premium court general ever since returning to action.
June Mar Fajardo (15 PPG, 15.3 RPG) vs Extra Rice, Inc. (Beau Belga and JR Quinahan combined: 17.2 PPG, 11.5 RPG)
In the Governors Cup semis, Fajardo towered over everybody else in a Rain or Shine uniform. That is why the Elasto Painters' big boys must take turns in trying to limit the 6-foot-10 skyscraper from reigning inside the paint.
Rain or Shine: Gabe Norwood
The Gilas Pilipinas premier wing defender's numbers won't jump out on you but Norwood can certainly contribute on both ends of the floor, especially in aspects of the game not seen on the stat sheet.
Petron: Ronald Tubid
Whenever Petron's shooters are on a slump, Tubid should take the spotlight. He will also be relied on in defense especially againt Rain or Shine's gunners.
What this game means: Rain or Shine is the runner-up in the last Philippine Cup. With TNT already out of the picture, the Painters should use this stint not just to exact revenge against Petron but also to prove they're indeed one of the best teams in the league. For the Boosters, this series will be gruelling but all worth it should they advance to the finale.
RAPPLER PICK: Petron in 7 games