BY WAYLON GALVEZ
Games Today (Mall of Asia Arena)
3:30 p.m. – Talk ’N Text vs Alaska
5:45 p.m. – Meralco vs Air21
Manila, Philippines – The first time Talk ’N Text and Alaska clashed this conference, the two ball clubs battled back and forth before the defending three-time champion Tropang Texters survived the Aces with an overtime win.
That kind of a close fight is again expected in their second round match up.
With both teams eyeing to improve their playoff chances, TNT and Alaska collide today in what should be another interesting finish as action resumes in the 2014 PLDT myDSL PBA Philippine Cup at the Mall of Asia.
The game between the Texters and the Aces is scheduled at 3:30 p.m., before the 5:45 encounter between Air21 and Meralco, which signed up veteran center Danny Ildefonso to a one-conference contract the other day to shore up its frontline.
It was Nov. 28 when Talk ’N Text defeated Alaska in OT, 114-111, as Gilas Pilipinas stalwarts Jayson Castro scored a career-high 33 points, while backcourt partner Jimmy Alapag scattered six of his 20 points in the extra period.
Talk ’N Text is currently at fourth place with a 6-3 record but is nursing a 105-91 setback to Petron last Dec. 28. The Texters are still in contention to finish in the top two to earn a twice-to-beat advantage in the playoffs.
However, with five games to go that includes this one against Alaska, TNT coach Norman Black understands they can’t afford to lose another game to have at least a playoff for the quarterfinal incentive.
“It’s a big game for both teams because we are closing in on the end of the eliminations,” said Black.
“It’s the time that you want to build some momentum and confidence going into the playoffs and display killer instinct. We need to play with all-out energy for 48 minutes which will be needed against Alaska,” added Black.
The Aces wrapped up 2013 with a key victory over San Mig Coffee, 88-75, to improve their record to 4-6. Alaska is currently tied for fifth and sixth places with Globalport and is also in a critical playoff race.
Alaska coach Luigi Trillo knows it will take a strong effort from his players to avenge that first round setback to TNT, saying: “When we play TNT it boils down to our execution. When we take care of the ball and value our possessions we stand a chance,” said Trillo.
“This is a team that runs and they also are the best rebounding team. They added quality pieces in (Sean) Anthony, (Danny) Seigle, (Jai) Reyes and (rookie Eliud) Poligrates. A healthy Talk ’N Text will be a good gauge to see if we are getting playoff ready. They will be at their best after losing to Petron and we see that,” added Trillo
Equally exciting is the game between Air21 and Meralco, which won their first meeting last Nov. 27, 112-79.
The Express are coming into the game holding that inspiring 109-103 overtime win over the Globalport Batang Pier on Christmas Day that ended a three-game skid and kept their bid alive for a playoff spot with a 2-8 card.
The Bolts, on the other hand, dropped their fourth straight game exactly a week ago when they blew a five-point lead in the final 15 seconds when ex-Meralco player JayR Reyes nailed a three-pointer before Japeth Aguilar capped Barangay Ginebra’s comeback with his own triple at the buzzer for an 83-82 win and a league-best 9-1 mark.
Meralco coach Ryan Gregorio said they have moved on from that horrible collapse, saying: “Done with 2013… we want to start on a high note to usher in 2014. New year, new hope, and hopefully new ending. We are still full of hope with four games left in our calendar. Our fate is still in our hands.”