MANILA, Philippines – Almost halfway through their schedule in the 2018 PBA Commissioner's Cup elimination round, the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters have shown that they are a team to be reckoned with this conference.
Through five games, Rain or Shine has compiled a 4-1 win-loss record, putting them at the top spot in the league standings. They have already beaten Alaska and Ginebra, and last Sunday they outlasted San Miguel Beer in overtime, 123-119, after rallying from a 17-point hole in the second half.
"That was a statement game for us," declared burly Rain or Shine import Reggie Johnson, who scored 27 points and grabbed 19 rebounds.
Johnson is well aware of San Miguel's status as the defending champion. He knows that it is a powerhouse squad that has dominated the league for the past three years.
He is also very familiar with San Miguel rookie Christian Standhardinger, whom he played against in the ASEAN Basketball League. Indeed, Standhardinger once scored 40 points against Johnson's ABL team, Mono Vampire, back in December when the Filipino-German was playing for Hong Kong Eastern.
Yet none of these mattered to Johnson during the game.
"This is a whole new league, a whole new season, a whole new team. I know SMB is the favorite team, the favorite to win it," said Johnson. "But I don't care."
Rain or Shine got a few breaks their way: San Miguel import Troy Gillenwater was thrown out late in the first half after bumping a referee, and reigning four-time Most Valuable Player June Mar Fajardo fouled out with a minute left in regulation. Most of those fouls were drawn by Johnson, who threw his weight around inside the post to get past Fajardo's defense.
"It was a fun game," said the import. "He (Fajardo) played hard, they played hard, and it was exciting to get the win."
Rain or Shine still has some ways to go in the elimination round and they have yet to play other potential contenders such as Magnolia and TNT. And as proud as he is of their win against San Miguel, Johnson knows the Beermen also exposed some holes in the Elasto Painters' game.
"We gotta continue to play well and clear some things on our end to continue to be great," said Johnson, who is currently averaging 26.4 points and 17.4 rebounds per game for the Elasto Painters.
"We gotta clear some things in practice – communication. Talking at the defensive end is very important, and I don't think we did a good job (tonight)," he added.
"We gotta watch film and continue to get better."
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