An ice-cold Rey Nambatac only made one of his seven shots against San Miguel, but that lone basket was more than enough for a Rain or Shine team that needed just one more in the clutch. Nambatac hit a massive triple with 12 seconds left to pull the plug on a late San Miguel Beermen rally and give the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters an 87-83 win to start to their 2020 PBA Philippine Cup campaign Tuesday at the Angeles University Foundation gym in Pampanga.
After falling by as many as 13 in the fourth quarter, SMB's offense found a gear late in the game to pull within one, 82-81, after Mo Tautuaa and Terrence Romeo fired two consecutive threes to close the gap with 27 seconds remaining.
The Beermen were poised to get another possession in the last 10 seconds after breaking up Rain or Shine's next play and nearly coming away with a steal, but Nambatac beat other Beermen for the loose ball in a scramble and bailed out his side by hitting a big three to extend the lead to four, 85-81.
Romeo managed to cut it to two after banking in a fadeaway jumper off a broken play with over a second left, but Javee Mocon managed to wrap it up on the other end by sealing the win with two free throws.
Nambatac finished with four points, seven rebounds and four dimes.
"It doesn't matter if you're 0-for-8, 0-for-9. As long as you're open, you can take those shots. It just happened that he had the ball and everyone scampered and he was able to pick up the ball. But you can see the maturity in him. He knew the time, he took the biggest shot of the game," Garcia said of Nambatac.
Before Nambatac, it was Mocon who starred in the early goings before eventually tying his career-high by scoring 27 points on 7-for-9 shooting to lead all players. Kris Rosales and Beau Belga added 15 and 12 each for the Elasto Painters, now up 1-0 for the season.
"When we got him, we really expected him to play like that since last year. He always plays with effort. He always fights and he doesn't stop, and he's a winner," said Garcia. "But the reason why we won was because of our defense tonight. It was a total team effort on the defensive side. We know San Miguel can really score. So keeping them low gave us the win today."
Mocon, who scored 12 in the first quarter and grabbed six rebounds in the win, had two threes in a furious 16-0 Rain or Shine start that was later negated by San Miguel, who outscored the Elasto Painters 20-7 in the next seven minutes of the opening period before going up on top for a few minutes before halftime.
Rain or Shine later turned a 53-51 lead to a 14-point advantage by uncorking a 12-0 run as it dominated a Beermen defense that sorely missed June Mar Fajardo in the paint. The Elasto Painters shot just 38.1 percent (32-for-84) from the field all game long but was golden in the restricted area, making 21-of-35 shots (60 percent) to carry the offense.
"Before when we used to attack June Mar, our big men would just shoot the ball from outside. Jewel (Ponferada), Norbert (Torres) Beau, they can shoot the ball outside. And since June Mar isn't there, we told the bigs to play a different role. Instead of popping out, just go to the basket. Basically that was the game plan today," said Garcia.
But that nearly went to waste in the fourth, where Romeo and Alex Cabagnot combined to score 17 of SMB's 29 points to come back from double digits.
San Miguel fell to 1-1 in the conference but saw encouraging performances from Marcio Lassiter (20 points) and Cabagnot (18). Mo Tautuaa added 17 and 11 boards.
"It's a good test right away because we're playing against the number one team and maybe we can gauge ourselves how good we are or how in shape we are. And I'm happy about how we played," said Garcia.
Rain or Shine will test itself against Terrafirma on Friday, Oct. 16, for a shot at win no. 2.
"They have youth, they can run the floor. I think they're gonna do well in the bubble. They're a lot taller now, faster," the coach said. "I see them also as one of the top teams because they have the youth, they can play every other day. They can recover immediately. That's one advantage I see that they have. And if CJ (Perez) gets better in the bubble, it's gonna be hard to stop them."
Rain or Shine (87) -- Mocon 25, Rosales 15, Belga 12, Borboran 9, Ponferada 7, Onwubere 6, Nambatac 4, Torres 4, Norwood 3, Doliguez 2, Wong 0, Yap 0.
San Miguel (83) -- Lassiter 20, Cabagnot 18, Tautuaa 17, Romeo 11, Gamalinda 5, Ross 4, Mamaril 3, Santos 2, Escoto 2, Pessumal 1, De Guzman 0.
Quarters: 25-20, 46-41, 67-54, 87-83.
- After his first triple of the game with 1:23 to go in the first quarter, Cabagnot became only the fifth active player with at least 8,000 pts in his career, per PBA statistician Fidel Mangonon III. He's 31st overall in league history.
- San Miguel shot just 34.6 percent in the game. Chris Ross and Arwind Santos combined for six points on 1-for-11 shooting. Romeo had an off night too, making only five of 16 shots for 11 points after drawing the start.
- - Yap, Rain or Shine's leading scorer last season, missed all six shots in 11 minutes. The 38-year-old star has yet to have his legs underneath him, according to Garcia. "Coming into the bubble, James was only able to practice with the team twice. After the first two days of practice, he's only been doing therapy. He wasn't able to practice the last seven days. We tried to get him to score, but today wasn't for him. But in the bubble, we have continuous games. Let's hope he'll be healthy in the next game."
- Rain or Shine vs. Terrafirma on Oct. 16 at 4 p.m.
- San Miguel vs. TNT on Oct. 16 at 6:45 p.m.