James Yap regains ‘Big Game’ form, thanks to extra work in the gym

When gunner James Yap found himself up against NLEX young big man Bradwyn Guinto from the right flank following a defensive switch, Rain or Shine coach Caloy Garcia instructed the other Elasto Painters to move on the other side for an isolation play.

Feeling he’s in the zone, the two-time league MVP used his quickness to the hilt that left the Road Warriors center scrambling to the ground, before stepping back behind the three-point mark for a clutch bucket that drew loud cheers from an appreciative Smart-Araneta Coliseum crowd.

If that vintage move is any indication, the deadly Yap of old is certainly back, and this time to the delight of Rain or Shine and its fans.

The former University of the East star turned back the hands of Father Time on Friday night when he sizzled with 26 points—his best output in over three seasons—and led the Painters to a 113-105 victory over the Road Warriors at the start of their 2017 PBA Commissioner’s Cup title defense.

Inserted to the starting lineup, the in-form Yap didn’t disappoint as he knocked down nine of his 15 tries, including five triples, and scored half of his team-high output in the final canto that enabled Rain or Shine to take control and repeat over former coach Yeng Guiao and NLEX in methodical fashion.

While he admitted he’s not quite surprised that his extra work in the conference break bore golden fruits immediately, the 35-year-old Yap couldn’t exactly figure out how he was able to virtually break Guinto’s ankles in that impressive sequence.

“Cross over ba yun o baka nadulas lang siya?” he asked sports scribes with a smile about his fifth and final triple that stretched Painters’ lead to 110-103 with 42 seconds to play.

“Nagulat rin ako. Nag-step back ako. Buti na-shoot at napasaya ko teammates ko.”

Aside from his extra work in practice, Yap admitted that he’s finally feeling better since he underwent an arthroscopic surgery on his right knee in the off-season.

“Nagpakundisyon lang. Extra work,” said the proud Escalante, Negros Occidental native. “Okay naman ‘yung tuhod ko. Malakas ‘yung legs ko ngayon. Nagpa-plyometrics ako.”

Sustaining his impressive start, however, is easier said than done. But Yap, if given a chance, is eager to do just that.

“Malayo pa (ang conference). Basta ‘wag lang magrelax. Kung ano yung ginagawa mo at the start of the conference, tuloy lang,” he said.

“Hindi na masyadong hard, bawasan na lang ng konti para hindi ka masunog. Malayo pa ‘to, marami pang pagdadaanang giyera.”

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