MANILA, Philippines - Rain or Shine proved on Friday that even without its top playmaker in injured rookie Paul Lee, it can win convincingly against B-Meg.
In the absence of the hurting Lee, the Elasto Painters fashioned out a 93-84 victory versus the Llamados to take a 2-1 best-of-seven series lead in the PBA Governors' Cup finals at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
With the 6-foot-1 Lee on the bench, sporting a sling to protect his left shoulder, which he dislocated in a Game 2 loss, the Painters got all the help they needed as import Jamelle Cornley led a balanced attack with 26 points and 15 rebounds.
Jeff Chan also stepped his game up as he scattered 18 points, Jireh Ibanes collected 12 points while Gabe Norwood added 11 markers and eight rebounds. Ronjay Buenafe came off the bench as he scored 11 points.
The trio of Chan, Buenafe and Ibanes, primarily known as a defensive specialist, accounted for seven of Rain or Shine's 10 three-pointers on 26 attempts, outscoring B-Meg in that department as it nailed just six out of 27 shots.
Chan's triple gave the Painters a 75-54 advantage early in the fourth quarter.
With the victory, Rain or Shine, a first time finalist since joining the pro league in 2006 which took the series-opener with a 91-80 win, is now in the driver's seat again.
Game 4 is set tomorrow also at the Big Dome.
From a tight 40-38 lead at halftime break, the Painters outscored the Llamados 30-14 in the third quarter, with Chan scoring nine points punctuated by two three-pointers, while Cornley and Ryan Arana had six points apiece.
In that third quarter blitzkrieg by Rain or Shine, it converted 12-of-21 (57.1%) from the field while holding B-Meg to 7-of-25 (28%) as coach Tim Cone surprisingly took his top players out of the game with James Yap going out at the 7:23 mark, PJ Simon at 5:28 and Pingris at 4:21.
"We just played as hard as we can without Paul. We thought that the biggest compliment we can do is play for him and commit it to him. He helped us get here," said Rain or Shine mentor Yeng Guiao as Lee has a slim chance of returning in the series.
"I felt it in my heart that the boys knew that this is their destiny. They played with a lot of toughness that comes from inside, it doesn't come from a t-shirt," added Guiao, referring to the t-shirt worn by B-Meg players with inscriptions that read: "Only tough guys need apply".
Guiao, who declared that his team can win the series with or without Lee, also said that they won without asking any help from anyone, including the referees after his counterpart Tim Cone of B-Meg was quoted as saying "the refs just have to help us out".
As for the B-Meg coach, Cone said that the reason of pulling Yap, Simon and Pingris out in the third quarter was to give them time to rest to prepare for the next game, saying: "This is about winning the series, not just one game. If I can steal a rest for PJ, James (and Pingris), that's a very good strategy at this point."
"My job is not to make the crowd happy, I love the fans but I can't worry about them," Cone added.
Jonas Villanueva led the Llamados with 18 points, while import Marcus Blakely added 13 and 10 rebounds. Yap was held to seven points and Simon finished with four on a combined 5-of-23 shooting from the field.
Rain or Shine 93 - Cornely 26, Chan 18, Ibanes 12, Buenafe 11, Norwood 10, Tang 6, Arana 6, Belga 4, Cruz 0, Quinahan 0.
B-Meg 84 - Villanueva 18, Blakely 13, De ocampo 13, Pingris 9, Yap 7, Barroca 6, Reavis 6, Gaco 4, Urbiztondo 4, Simon 4, Acuna 0.
Quarters: 19-23; 40-38; 70-58; 93-84.