By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
THE San Miguel Beermen are a win away from a finals return after fashioning out a major comeback against the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters, 117-105, in Game Two of their best-of-five Philippine Basketball Association Commissioner’s Cup semifinal series on Monday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Down by as much as 29 points at one point in the second quarter, the Beermen, the Philippine Cup champions, channelled the unstoppable when they found their collective groove on their way to the big victory that pushed them to a commanding position to vie for a second straight PBA title this season.
Rain or Shine had a massive first quarter, riding a solid 61% shooting (7-of-13) from beyond the arc to make their way to a 34-13 advantage at the end of the first quarter.
The Elasto Painters continued to pour it on the Beermen to begin the second quarter, stretching their lead to 29 points, 47-19, by the 9:28 mark of the frame.
San Miguel then made its move back after, led by the triumvirate of Christian Standhardinger, Chris Ross and import Chris McCullough.
They would outscore the Elasto Painters, 30-5, the rest of the quarter to be down by just three points, 52-49, at the halftime break.
Getting the leverage they needed in the game, the Beermen came out shooting in the third period.
San Miguel overtook Rain or Shine, 61-60, after two free throws from Alex Cabagnot at the 7:20 mark before exploding some more on the lead of Messrs. Ross and McCullough.
When the quarter smoke cleared, the Beermen outscored the Elasto Painters, 40-21, to go on top, 89-73, heading into the final quarter.
In the fourth period, San Miguel spent much of the time fighting off any attempt from Rain or Shine to rally back.
James Yap drained some baskets to give the Elasto Painters hope but their effect was kept to a bare minimum by the Beermen who stood firm all the way to the end to close the game.
Mr. Ross paced the Beermen with a career-high 34 points, going 10-of-16 from three-point land, to go along with eight assists.
Mr. McCullough had 22 points, 11 rebounds and six assists while Mr. Cabagnot finished with 17 points and seven dimes.
Mr. Standhardinger had 15 points with June Mar Fajardo adding 14 points and 15 rebounds for San Miguel.
For Rain or Shine it was import Carl Montgomery who led with 24 points, 15 rebounds and six assists.
Rey Nambatac had 15 points with Ed Daquioag and Mr. Yap adding 13 and 12 points, respectively.
“We were missing shots early but we just kept shooting. We’ve been through many situations before and nothing really rattles us,” said Mr. Ross in the postgame interview.
Game Three of the semifinals between San Miguel and Rain or Shine is on Wednesday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.