Rain or Shine not giving up on Denzel Bowles
Joaquin Henson (The Philippine Star) - July 13, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Rain or Shine has a foot in the door of the PBA Commissioner’s Cup quarterfinals but coach Caloy Garcia wants to make sure the Elasto Painters are safely in the playoffs outside of the No. 7 and No. 8 spots which carry a twice-to-win disadvantage.

At the moment, Rain or Shine totes a 5-5 record and will play its last elimination game against San Miguel Beer (4-5) in Cagayan de Oro tonight. Depending on how the other teams wind up, the Painters could finish in the tail-end of the cast of eight advancing to the playoffs.

“There isn’t a clear scenario on where we can end up or whom we play against,” said Garcia. All he’s focused on is beating the Beermen to extend the Painters’ win streak to three for momentum entering the playoffs.

Rain or Shine is unbeaten with new import Carl Montgomery in harness. Montgomery checked in to replace original import Denzel Bowles who’s down with a knee injury. Bowles averaged 28.9 points, 11.8 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 39.6 minutes in nine games before Montgomery was called up. In his PBA debut, Montgomery had 20 points, 12 boards, four assists, two steals and two blocked shots in 35:39 minutes as Rain or Shine beat Magnolia, 86-82, at the Smart Araneta Coliseum last Wednesday.

“Carl played well in his first game but I told the locals to step up ‘cause we don’t want to rely on our import too much,” said Garcia. “He isn’t the tallest nor the strongest import but he gives us the energy that we need. He gives us a lot of options on the defensive end. I expect the locals to step up since we probably are the smallest team right now.”

Bowles is still in town. As an original import on the injured list, he may be reactivated once during the conference. “Denzel’s recovering from his injury although it’s nothing major,” said Garcia. “He needs therapy for his knee and the key is strengthening.” Bowles, 30, previously played four conferences for the Purefoods franchise, winning the Best Import award in 2011-12. He would’ve played for TNT in 2017 but was cut before the Commissioner’s Cup started. Bowles played for Texas A&M and James Madison University then traveled around the world playing basketball in Lithuania, China, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Israel, United Arab Emirates, Dominican Republic, Paraguay, Japan and the PBA.

For tonight’s game, Garcia will continue to miss the services of James Yap and Maverick Ahanmisi. Yap will sit out his third straight contest with a groin strain while Ahanmisi hasn’t played a game this conference due to a toe issue. “James will try to play in the quarters if he feels no pain,” said Garcia. “We’ll assess Mav’s situation when we get back from Cagayan de Oro.”

Garcia confirmed that Montgomery, not Bowles, will play against San Miguel. Montgomery, 30, saw action in four seasons with the Chicago State varsity. As a senior in 2010-11, he averaged 17.3 points and 8.1 rebounds. Before landing in the PBA, Montgomery suited up in El Salvador, Belgium, Latvia and Malaysia.

Defense has been the driving force in Rain or Shine’s push for the playoffs. In five wins, the Painters limited opponents to less than 90 points in every game and an average of 83. In five losses, opponents torched Rain or Shine with at least 90 points in each contest and an average of 99.6. “It’s just more on setting the rules on defense,” said Garcia. “We rely on each other with no specific anchor.”

Garcia made special mention of Beau Belga who carried the team to the win over Magnolia with 22 points and five rebounds. “I haven’t seen Beau that aggressive in scoring,” said Garcia. “I hope he gives that in every game.” Before Belga’s explosion, he hadn’t scored in double figures the last eight outings.

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