The Rain or Shine Elasto Painters sit comfortably on top of the Oppo PBA Commissioner’s Cup standings after going 2-0 against NLEX and Mahindra on the new conference’s opening weekend.
And a big part of that success has been thanks to two players that have bolstered their frontline with their size, length and inside presence, things that the team sorely needed in during their campaign in the Philippine Cup.
With a healthy Raymond Almazan and an imposing import in Shawn Taggart manning the interior, the Elasto Painters have thrived, especially on Sunday where they grabbed 70 rebounds as a team – 23 more than the opposing Floodbuster – en route to a 99-95 win.
“When Raymond got injured (last conference), that really crippled us at the defensive side,” Rain or Shine coach Caloy Garcia told sportswriters during the postgame interview.
“Raymond is our best shotblocker, our best rebounder, best offensive rebounder. So basically, ang laki ng nawala sa amin. He plays 20 minutes, but he gives us double-double production. It’s very hard to find players like that. Kung ginagamit ko siya ng 40 minutes, he can produce 26 and 20.”
Almazan missed the stretch run of Elasto Painters’ campaign last conference after going down with a calf injury. Without him, the team dropped from second place to eighth in the standings before settling for a quarterfinal exit.
Taggart, who played for GlobalPort last season, also gives the Elasto Painters an added dimension up front. Last season, he averaged 34.4 points, 14.8 rebounds, 2.6 assists, and 1.6 blocks for the Batang Pier in a near no-relief performance.
With Rain or Shine, the 6-foot-9 import has plenty of support not just from the returning Almazan but also the other big men, including Beau Belga, Jay Washington and Jewel Ponferada.
So instead of looking to post big numbers, Taggart can afford to focus on getting the team on the same page as they try to take a serious crack at defending their title.
“With Shawn, he tries to get all the players involved. I told him, we know he can score, but to win this conference, we have to involve everybody, the locals, and we cannot rely on the import,” Garcia added.
“When he was scoring, he saw Jeff Chan in the corner, which was a big shot for us and gave us a four-point lead. When we had Shawn right at the start of our practice, he makes everybody look good,” he added.
“The only thing he needs to work on is his defensive side. Kasi minsan nagpe-pacing pero sa import kasi nangyayari yun kasi you have to play longer minutes.”
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