‘Big Game’ James delivers in clutch as Rain or Shine stumps former coach Yeng Guiao’s NLEX anew

PBA Media Bureau

PBA Media Bureau

The Rain or Shine Elasto Painters made a critical run in the last two minutes to push a close game out of reach for the NLEX Road Warriors, 113-105, to eke out a win in the Oppo PBA Commissioner’s Cup on Friday at the SMART-Araneta Coliseum.

James Yap made some big-time shots and Gabe Norwood and Beau Belga chipped in with some crucial three-pointers as part of an 11-0 run that sealed the win for Rain or Shine late in the game.

The highlight was a play wherein Yap put his defender – NLEX big man Bradway Guinto – on skates with a massive crossover before stepping back for a clutch three-pointer that made it a seven-point game, 110-103, inside the final minute.

On top of the clutch shots, ‘Big Game’ James finished with a team-high 26 points, including five three-pointers.

Import Shawn Taggart chipped in a double-double with 23 points and 10 rebounds, alongside four assists and four blocks while Raymond Almazan scored 18 points – nine of those in the fourth quarter – in notable performances for the Elasto Painters.

With the win, Rain or Shine was again able to pull one over their former long-time coach, Yeng Guiao, who took over the Road Warriors’ head coaching post in the offseason. The Elasto Painters won their Philippine Cup matchup, 107-97.

Rain or Shine, and especially their star player-and-import duo of Yap and Taggart, started out red-hot. The two combined to score the first 14 of the Elasto Painters’ points in the game – and 17 of the team’s first 24 points.

That allowed them to take an early double-digit lead, 24-14, although NLEX managed to wrest away the lead late in the first after a 7-0 run led by their second unit.

Jeff Chan then came out firing in the second quarter, where he scored 12 points, including eight straight points that again gave Rain or Shine some separation, 40-31.

Almazan also made some big contributions and Yap knocked down some big shots late in the period as the Elasto Painters maintained a comfortable halftime margin, 62-52.

NLEX made short work of that lead, though.

With Wayne Chism fired up and the NLEX defense clicking, the Road Warriors dominated the first six minutes of the third period to wipe out Rain or Shine’s advantage.

NLEX held their opponents to just four points on 2-for-12 shooting in the span of half the quarter while in contrast, they scored 18 big points – 13 from the import Chism alone.

The NLEX reinforcement, who used to suit up as an import for Rain or Shine, was so dominant that he crossed the 20-point, 20-rebound mark with over a minute left to play in the third.

Though that made the game a close one, it only set the stage for a brilliant performance from Yap in the fourth quarter.

Yap hit his first shot of the fourth quarter, a three-pointer that tied the game at 83-apiece. And though he went quiet for a bit after that – it was Almazan that carried the team for a good stretch – the two-time PBA MVP shone brightest when it mattered most.

He scored 10 points in the last 5:45 of the game, including five consecutive points as part of a decisive 11-0 run that put the game out of reach.

NLEX led by a point, 103-102, with 2:16 left in the game but Gabe Norwood banked in a three-pointer that put Rain or Shine back on top, 105-103.

Yap then came up huge with a tough one-hander, 107-103, and the memorable crossover-stepback move that made it 110-103 with just 42 seconds left to play.

Belga knocked down another triple, 113-103, to put the result out of question.

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