Rain or Shine won’t make things easy for San Miguel

Rain or Shine coach Yeng Guiao in the PBA Philippine Cup playoffs. –PBA IMAGES

Coach Yeng Guiao immediately played down Rain or Shine’s chances of pulling off an upset of mighty San Miguel Beer in the PBA Philippine Cup semifinals.

But Guiao and the Elasto Painters won’t just surrender the best-of-seven series, which starts on Friday at Mall of Asia Arena, on a silver platter.

“We don’t have anyone to match up against them, but we will make things difficult for them,” Guiao said ahead of the series opener slated at 4:30 p.m. “If we win, we win. If we lose, we have to make sure we lose with our heads held high.”

Barangay Ginebra and Meralco, long-standing rivals, open their own seven-game affair in the 7:30 p.m. nightcap.

Rain or Shine will be heavy underdogs against a San Miguel side that flirted with an elimination round sweep before surviving a resilient Terrafirma squad in the quarterfinals.

The series has an interesting subplot; a battle between the league’s heavyweight against the last independent team to win a PBA championship, one that is hoping to do it again after eight years.

That storyline should at least put Rain or Shine at an advantage.

“We want San Miguel to feel all the pressure,” Guiao said. “There’s no pressure on us. In our minds, we feel like we have already won. We feel like we’re already champions.”

Rain or Shine made it to the semis for the first time since the 2019 Commissioner’s Cup despite a 0-4 (win-loss) start, a stretch that included a loss to San Miguel. A six-game winning streak followed suit and then the Elasto Painters bucked a Game 1 defeat to eliminate TNT in a best-of-three quarterfinals series.

Gian Mamuyac’s conference-high 25 points epitomized how different players are performing huge at a crucial time for Rain or Shine. In Game 2, it was Jhonard Clarito who delivered as the Elasto Painters avoided elimination.

‘Playing the long game’

Seeing Mamuyac, Clarito and the rest of the young core is somewhat indicative of Rain or Shine’s slow gains eventually bearing fruit since Guiao returned in 2022 to the team he guided to two championships.

“Getting to the semis means that you were able to bump off a big team,” Guiao said. “And as an independent team, that thing in itself is a source of pride, a source of achievement.

“We’re playing the long game. We can’t just acquire talent that would be a game changer for the team, we have to develop. And this is the way to develop talent, by getting them deep in the playoffs, getting them experience and dealing with the stress of having to deal with the situation.”

For Guiao, there’s no better way to do that than to face June Mar Fajardo, CJ Perez and the ultratalented San Miguel side that wants to close in further on its quest to retain the Philippine Cup trophy and complete a season double.

“This is going to be a toughness test,” he said. “We will know our real character. We will know if you’re a big player or are you somebody that won’t show up when the going gets tough. They’re still young, but these guys know how to put up a fight.”

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“This seven-game series will be our best learning experience,” Guiao added.

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