MOMENTUM or plenty of rest? Which will be more of a factor?
That will be answered when well-rested Rain or Shine and streaking Alaska renew their growing rivalry as they open their semifinal showdown in the 2014-15 Philippine Basketball Association Philippine Cup playoffs.
After getting 10 days of rest, the No. 2 seeded Elasto Painters return to action to start their battle with the No. 3-ranked Aces in Game 1 of their best-of-seven semis affair at 7 p.m. at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City to see who gets first blood.
This is a rematch of the last Governors’ Cup semifinals when the two teams met. The Elasto Painters won that thrilling best-of-five series to advance to the finals of the third conference of last season.
Though rust may play a factor for Rain or Shine, it still is the league’s hottest team entering the semis, carrying a seven-game winning streak.
On the other hand, Alaska had to go through the two phases of the quarterfinals just to earn its ticket in the semis.
The Aces topped NLEX, 82-78, last week in the first phase of the quarters before going on to pummel Meralco in the second phase, 87-69, last Sunday.
Rain or Shine coach Yeng Guiao is wary of their foes’ capabilities.
‘’Alaska is a new team. It is a better team now with a lot of toughness,’’ said Guiao. ‘’We have to keep our focus and play our type of game. If we’ll be able to keep the game close, we’ll take our chances again in the endgame.’’
Rain or Shine may have the psychological advantage heading in as they beat Alaska the last couple of times they played.
Besides that triumph in the Governors’ Cup semifinals, the Elasto Painters were also responsible for forcing the Aces to go through a tougher road to the Final Four after they snatched the No. 2 seed and the outright semis berth from Alaska by winning their crucial encounter in the elimination round, 98-95, courtesy of rookie Jericho Cruz’s game-winning field goal, just two weeks ago.
For the Aces, not only do they have the momentum, but those two games that they won in the quarterfinals allowed them to get their bearings back and regain the winning form they had early in the eliminations, where they led the league for most part before a sketchy finish in the classification phase.
Alaska lost three of its last five games in the eliminations after a 6-0 start as its aura of invincibility suddenly disappeared.
However, the Aces seem to be back on track now as they are once again playing splendidly in the playoffs.
One thing that may affect Rain or Shine will be the absence of Cruz. The capable rookie is out for the series as he is still dealing with a foot injury he suffered in the Painters’ last elimination game against Barangay Ginebra.
The ninth overall pick caught everyone by surprise with his contributions for Rain or Shine.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the fence, top seed San Miguel Beer and fourth ranked Talk ‘N Text are also about to start their own best-of-seven semifinals series tomorrow at 7 p.m. in the same venue.
The Tropang Texters methodically destroyed the Gin Kings, 83-67, on Tuesday in the second phase of the quarterfinals to grab the last semis berth and move forward to face the Beermen.