Flashing a rejuvenated defensive vigor, B-Meg held Rain or Shine to a lone made basket in the final 5:26 en route to an 85-80 victory that tied their best-of-seven series at one game apiece in the PBA Governors Cup finals at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
Despite playing with back spasms, ace guard James Yap fired 15 of his personal conference-best 24 points, including a tough fall-away jumper in the clutch, while import Marqus Blakely collected a game-high 26 markers and 16 boards to help the Llamados bounce back from a stinging 80-91 series opener defeat last Sunday.
"We felt that we didn't have time to have a great game plan going in Game 1. Preparation gives you confidence. We didn’t have that (confidence) in Game 1," stressed Cone.
Yap, who had 19 points in Game 1 but bungled 15 of his 23 attempts, seemed to have adjusted to the series’ bruising nature with an avalanche of inside forays in the second half, taking the leather right into the heart of RoS vaunted physical defense.
“Nagulat kami sa physicality nila nun’ Game 1. Ngayon naka-adjust na kami,” stressed Yap, a former two-time MVP. “Kailangan maka adapt sa banggaan at hawakan. Finals na kaya walang bibitaw dito. Kung mahina loob mo, talo ka,” stressed Yap, who also hauled down nine boards.
Jamelle Cornley, who was named Best Import earlier, scored five of the E-Painters’ last six points, capped by a jumper with just six seconds left, and struggled for 18 points, a start contrast from his 25-point, 11-rebound outing in the opener.
Sensational rookie Paul Lee, who finished with 11 markers, appeared to re-dislocate his left shoulder and was taken out on a stretcher, casting a big cloud on his return to the series.
“We will win this series with or without Paul,” stressed Rain or Shine coach Yeng Guiao. “We lost our best local player and I’m not sure what his situation or status is but from the looks of it, it looks serious. We have five games left and we are not discouraged. We will go back to practice and prepare for the next game.”
Guiao, who has earlier figured in a heated word war with Cone, delivered another parting shot, saying: “We have no excuses and we will not complain. Tim Cone asked help from the referees and he got a lot in this game.”
PJ Simon also shone for B-Meg with 16 points, nine of them coming in the second half where the Llamados fully took control with their suffocating defense coupled with a quick transition attack.
“This was a crucial win for us. We had to convince ourselves that we can beat this team. They seem to be our kontra-pelo,” noted Cone, who finally put one over Guiao in four games this conference.
Just when B-Meg seemed to be cruising all the way with a 74-68 spread off Yap’s two charities with more than seven minutes left, Rain or Shine countered with a six-to-nothing run, capped by Cornely’s lay-up off Lee’s feed with 5:26 left.
But Yap quickly doused cold water on RoS’ charge, draining an off-balanced shot off Gabe Norwood’s foul for a 79-74 lead with 2:42 left.
Despite failing to hit a basket from the field, the E-Painters utilized the free throw line to the hilt by scoring four of the next five points, closing to within 78-80 with 37.1 ticks remaining.
B-Meg wouldn’t be denied, though, as Yap sank a turnaround jumper off Jeff Chan to restore their lead at four with 15.6 left.
Three charities by Blakely sandwiched Cornley’s jumper and pegged the final count.
“We played the tempo we wanted to play,” added Cone, whose charges lorded it over the boards with a huge 58-39 advantage.
B-MEG 85 – Blakely 26, Yap 24, Simon 16, Barroca 8, De Ocampo 6, Villanueva 2, Pingris 2, Reavis 1, Urbiztondo 0.
RAIN OR SHINE 80 – Cornley 18, Chan 12, Lee 11, Cruz 10, Norwood 9, Buenafe 7, Ibanes 7, Belga 4, Arana 2, Tang 0, Quinahan 0.
Quarters: 21-26, 44-41, 65-60, 85-80