Dubai: The Dubai leg of the Philippine Basketball Association's Commissioner's Cup got off to a fiery start as last-placed Rain or Shine Elasto Painters escaped a late scare to beat the Barako Bull Energy Boosters 99-95 at the Al Shabab Sports Club stadium in Deira on Thursday night.
Despite playing most of the game without their American reinforcement Dermarr Johnson, who got injured seven minutes into the game, the Energy Boosters kept pace and even threatened to upset the Elasto Painters as their long-range shots found their mark.
"It's a break-out win, but I'm not really happy with the way we played. The other team lost their import early so we should have aimed for a convincing win, but a win is a win and we're happy for breaking into the win column," Rain or Shine coach Yeng Guiao told Gulf News.
The Elasto Painters improved their win-loss record to 1-2 and switched places with the Energy Boosters, who dropped to the bottom at 1-3. The Elasto Painters were also due to take on crowd favourites Barangay Ginebra Gin Kings later last night.
Energy Boosters coach Junel Baculi could only shake his head when pressed to assess their game. He did say, however, that their American reinforcement was neutralised after being caught by a wayward knee to the groin. Johnson limped off after tallying only three points. The Elasto Painters failed to dominate their opponents and even trailed 39-50 late in the second period.
"They were hitting their outside shots. Their locals really stepped up," said Guiao. "In the endgame, having an American reinforcement really makes a difference. You can ask him to create situations and score points, which is something the other team could not do."
Duke Crews, who was in danger of being sacked after the Elasto Painters' back-to-back losses prior to the Dubai tour, scored a game-high 27 points and grabbed 14 rebounds, but it was Filipino centre Beau Belga, who sparked an endgame rally that catapulted Rain or Shine to their first win in the conference.
"Beau Belga played really well in the endgame. He was in foul trouble, but I took a gamble on him and it paid off," said the multi-titled Elasto Painters coach. Matching his personal best in the league with a huge 20-point effort, Belga hit his final points in the game where it counted most, draining a momentum-grabbing three-pointer with less than four minutes on the clock.