By Dugout Philippines
ANTIPOLO--Rain or Shine simply won't be denied.
Jay Washington saw to that as he came up brilliant in the stretch and made possible the Elasto Painters' 95-88 over Blackwater Sunday in the PBA Commissioner's Cup at the Ynares Center.
Shawn Taggart finished with 26 points and 12 rebounds, Jericho Cruz finally found some of his fiery touch for 12 points, the same output of Maverick Ahanmisi who also chipped in a big 3. James Yap continued his steady play with 11 points.
Clearly, however, it was Washington who shone the most when needed as he figured in practically all the crucial plays in the stretch, enabling the Elasto Painters to rack up their third win in as many games and join idle Meralco at the top of the leaderboard.
Aside from scoring all his six points on two clutch triples inside the last 2:45 of the game, Washington added four rebounds, an assist and a block. All the while, he also anchored the defense on Blackwater import Greg Smith.
Smith still wound up with game highs of 34 points and 20 rebounds, but he was completely stymied in the last five minutes, where he was limited to a solitary charity, and Blackwater got relegated to the company of NLEX at the cellar, each with a 0-3 slate.
Reil Cervantes added 12 points in his usual role as reliever for the Elite, who also drew 10 points from Kyle Pascual.
Usually good for 15 points an outing, Mac Belo was held to eight below his average although his lone triple gave Blackwater its last taste of the lead at 87-84.
But Ahanmisi answered right back with his own trey with Washington following suit to give Rain or Shine the upper hand at 90-87.
Following Smith's charity, Washington again connected in what would prove to be a dagger of a triple as Blackwater missed all its last four field goal attempts and committed two turnovers, the last converted by Cruz into a layup that pegged the final count.
It was a sorry collapse by Blackwater, which pounced on Rain or Shine's flat start to enjoy several seven-point leads early and even toted its biggest lead of the second half at 77-72 off Smith's dunk.
But the E-Painters hung tough and eventually got Washington, who was fielded in when Beau Belga got into foul trouble and Jewel Ponferrada and Raymond Almazan could not really get going, taking the lead.
Cruz, who scored only two points on 1-for-9 shooting against Mahindra, missed his first shot but waxed hot with 10 of his points in the third quarter, helping Rain or Shine stay within 68-70 going to the fourth period.
Mainly keeping Blackwater's head above water was Smith, who had 10 of his points in the third period while getting help from Roi Sumang and Cervantes.
The former Houston Rocket already had 14 points and 11 rebounds at the turn, but it was the backcourt duo of John Pinto and Ronjay Buenafe who made possible Blackwater's 47-44 lead at the end of the first half.
Pinto and Beunafe drilled in a triple each and the latter also had a technical charity off Taggart that capped the Elite's charge from a 35-42 deficit.
Taggart was well on his way to his own third straight double-double with 12 points and six boards after the first 24 minutes of play, but his local teammates found it hard to find their groove early on.
Good thing Chris Tiu, Jeff Chan and Yap found some, joining hands in a 10-0 surge that plucked the E-Painters out of a 32-35 deficit and into a 42-35 spread.
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