Sports

After surviving tough knockout match, Guiao now dealing with the hard part: Trying to beat peerless Dragons—twice


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Yeng Guiao seems like a coach trying to convince him to appear in the quarterfinals where he feels Rain or Shine has little hope of winning.

The best he could muster was “we will try to stay” [the game] as long as we can.”

One of his marksmen, Rey Nambatac tried to dig into some form of cliché optimism.

“Bilog ang bola (round ball),” Nambatac said, recalling the overused basketball soundbite that usually means anything is possible. “It was definitely a David and Goliath kind of game. But nothing is impossible [if] we try.”

The feeling of dread came after Rain or Shine survived a tough knockout against NLEX, 110-100, on Sunday night to claim the eighth seed—the last play-off seat in the tournament. Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Commissioner’s Cup.

Guiao has climbed the mountain before, but the fiery championship coach feels nothing is as big as the prize he picked up on the road: A match against the Bay Area top seed.

“I don’t think you can prepare well enough against a team like that,” he said.

“They have the advantage in every way: Import, height and cohesion. They were together in a hotel. I mean, their close friendship and chemistry is definitely off the charts. And I can’t think of any strategy that would counter that. I don’t even know how we’re going to beat them. They are too strong,” Guiao added.

Wide margin

And as if that power – which propelled the Dragons above the entire tournament – wasn’t discouraging enough, Rain or Shine couldn’t even celebrate an upset victory. Elasto Painters need to win twice in a row to eliminate the Bay Area because of the latter’s ability to defend twice to beat.

The Dragons were nothing but mighty during the mid-season rollout, picking up 10 wins in the elimination phase and winning the games by 23.4 points.

Guiao, a former national coach, also points out that the Bay Area’s constitution is an organic advantage that PBA teams can’t match.

“[The Dragons] an option, they’re not a team,” he complained. “How many years did they wait to choose someone like Kobey Lam? How many years did they take to sketch Zhu [Songwei]? And, who again, their 7 foot 5 player? Save [Chuanxing].

“Here we wait [for years]. For them, it’s instant. When they arrived, they were done. Before we can have a complete team, we have to wait years. [The league] could have allowed us to use two imports to make things interesting because whenever [local teams] play them, it’s a blast. They beat us by 50, 30 points. We are floundering in our own league,” Guiao added.

‘We want this’

Of the 10 Bay Area clubs that were knocked out, five got 25 or more: Terrafirma (54), Blackwater (46) TNT (32) and San Miguel Beer (26). Thursday? Guiao’s Painters, who were crushed by 33 points.

The Bay Area has only lost twice, to the crowd’s beloved Barangay Ginebra, and to KJ McDaniels-backed Meralco. The dragons lead the league in points with an average of 111.9 points. But they have also proven to be quite intimidating in defence, having averaged just 94.2 points, second only to Magnolia.

“There are only inherent advantages that you cannot [manufacture] through a game plan—like size, right?” Quach said.

But Guiao could have given up and given up the last seat in the quarterfinals to the Road Warriors and let them deal with trying to kill the Dragons.

And, as Nambatac pointed out, they didn’t.

“We want this,” he said. “We have five days to prepare.” request

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