Lines Drawn As PBA Semis Begin

It was only last August when Rain or Shine made history when it bagged its first ever PBA championship, winning the Governors' Cup at the expense of heavily-favored B-Meg.

They meet again in a seven-game series, although this time, it's for one of the finals berth.

In what should be another emotional and physical series, the Elasto Painters and the Coffee Mixers renew their rivalry as they clash in Game 1 of a best-of-seven semifinal duel in the PBA Philippine Cup today at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

The game between No. 4 Rain or Shine and No. 2 San Mig is set at 7:30 p.m., right after top seed and defending champion Talk 'N Text collides with No. 6 Alaska in Game 1 of their own semifinal series at 5:15 p.m.

"It's going to be the same, just like the last time we faced them in a best-of-seven series," said the Painters head coach Yeng Guiao, who was relaxed after conducting the team's practice session in preparation for Game 1 at the North East Green Hills gym in San Juan.

"It's going to be an emotional and physical series. We're confident that we can beat this team, but we have to be really focused when it comes to executing our offense and especially our defense, which we feel is the key to winning the series," added Guiao.

Rain or Shine took a 3-1 lead in that Governors' Cup Finals, before pulling off a stunning Game 7 win despite missing injured guard Paul Lee.

San Mig coach Tim Cone, agrees, although this time he thinks they have a better chance of beating the Painters since he got Joe Devance and JC Intal, who both missed the Finals due to injuries.

"As opposed to our championship series (last conference), we feel we match up better this time around," said Cone, whose team split its head-to-head with Rain or Shine this conference. "Paul Lee and Chris Tiu's additions have certainly made them a deeper, tougher team."

"But having Joe, JC and Wesley (Gonzales who was acquired in the off-season from Alaska) available for us this time around helps even things out. This should be a great series," he added.

The series between TNT and Alaska is likewise not devoid of drama and has potential of being a riveting match up, too.

Alaska, after all, is one of only two teams to beat the Tropang Texters, 94-92, on a last second layup from JV Casio. It will also be the first semis appearance for sophomore coach Luigi Trillo since taking the place of Cone.

"It will be a challenge for us considering they are one of two teams that beat us in the elims," said TNT coach Norman Black. "Defense will be the key because they are one of the better shooting teams in the league especially from the three-point line."

In the history of the PBA, 63 out of 92 winners in Game 1 of a best-of-seven series usually wins the showdown (68%) since the league adopted the seven-game showdown back in 1982 Reinforced Open conference finals.

Guiao, meantime, admits that San Mig has the edge because of its ceiling.

Guiao cited the pair of 6-foot-8 centers Yancy de Ocampo and Rafi Reavis, and the 6-foot-6 forward Marc Pingris going up against the shorter frontline of Rain or Shine led by 6-foot-6 Beau Belga.

"We have to double our effort in help defense, in boxing out their big guys. If not, they'll just dominate the rebounds. It's like the Ginebra (quarterfinal series), but San Mig is longer, they're taller, they're and bigger," added Guiao.

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