Rain or Shine and Magnolia Pambansang Manok are quite a pair with their interesting history of playoff battles and intriguing player matchups.
Yap versus Lee is just one of the interesting player matchups in this coming series where Rain or Shine is coming in from a second-best finish in the elims, while Magnolia comes from a comeback triumph over Barangay Ginebra in their best-of-three quarters duel.
All of these come to the fore as the Elasto Painters and the Hotshots clash in their side of a best-of-seven showdown in the 2019 PBA Philippine Cup Final Four that fires off Friday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
One of Rain or Shine's two titles came at the expense of the San Mig/Purefoods franchise in the 2012 Governors Cup. Magnolia, on the other hand, twice crushed ROS in the finals in their grand slam season in 2013-14.
And they have had other riveting playoff battles, the last one in the 2016-17 Commissioner's Cup where the Hotshots swept aside the Elasto Painters in the quarters.
They have had classic matches, counting their initial tiff in the tourney on Feb. 13 where the E-Painters squeezed out a 75-74 triumph as James Yap beat out Paul Lee in a fierce exchange of big baskets at the finish.
The Elasto Painters are well rested, having played just one game in nearly a month now. Magnolia, on the other hand, enjoys a momentum of five wins in its last six outings.
After a second-place finish in the elims with an 8-3 win-loss record, the E-Painters warmed up for the semis in a 91-85 drubbing of the NorthPort Batang Pier Sunday. Magnolia, for its part, showed great character in fighting back from a quarters series opener defeat then completing a stunning conquest of the highly formidable Ginebra team via an 85-72 win in their sudden death on Wednesday.
And both sides now look forward to their playoff.
"It's all about our grit and will that carried us past Ginebra. Now it's the start of another tough series versus the No. 2 team, and we need to be more determined, have that consistent effort, defensive mindset and the desire to win," said Magnolia coach Chito Victolero.
In finishing off early their own quarters assignment, the E-Painters were able to see up close the Hotshots in their duel with the Kings.
"We have to attack their pressure defense. They did a good job dictating the tempo of the game against Ginebra. If we can limit our turnovers and limit their points, I think we can be able to pull of a win," said ROS coach Caloy Garcia.
The E-Painters were on a chase of a Top Two finish in the elims when they beat the Hotshots in their previous clash.
Yap came through with two triples and a critical three-point play in the fourth quarter, highlighting an 18-point performance in a big rebound from a mere two-point outing the last time out.
Lee had his big shots at endgame, including one from a great maneuver where he shook off Gabe Norwood on a turnaround move then scored on a fade-away shot off Beau Belga with 6.1 ticks to go.
The Elasto Painters, however, won't be denied - thanks to the equally superb move of Yap.
The two-time PBA MVP winner eluded the double-teaming defense of Rome dela Rosa and Rafi Reavis to drain the equalizer. And with a foul to boot, Yap canned in the accompanying free throw as the E-Painters stretched their hot streak then. (SB)