by Waylon Galvez
Game Today (Smart Araneta Coliseum)
5 p.m. – San Mig Super Coffee vs Air21
Manila, Philippines – Talk ’N Text is back to a familiar territory – the Finals.
The Tropang Texters delivered the knockout punch, downing an undermanned Rain or Shine side, 99-91, to complete a three-game sweep of their semis series in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup playoffs last night at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
TNT import Richard Howell dished out another stellar performance with 26 points and 19 rebounds to lead TNT back to the finals after a disappointing showing in the Philippine Cup.
He also got solid support from the locals, especially Ranidel de Ocampo and Ryan Reyes who collected 15 points each, while Jayson Castro and Larry Fonacier added 10 points apiece.
TNT’s outside shooting was fantastic.
In all, the Tropang Texters finished with 35-of-74 (47.3%) shooting from the field, including 14-of-28 (50%) from three point territory, with Reyes nailing five triples.
The bearded De Ocampo, Castro, Fonacier and Nino Canaleta had two each, and Kelly Williams had one.
Talk ’N Text also controlled the boards, 49-38.
“It was a hard fought game, both teams played very well. I’d like to give (ROS import) Wayne Chism credit for playing very well despite an injured knee. I thought he gave them a big lift,” said TNT coach Norman Black.
“It was a good comeback for (TNT import) Richard Howell, he had a good semis series. But once again, the local players helped us to get back to the finals,” added Black, who himself is returning to the finals for the 16th time and is looking to bag his 12th league crown.
TNT, which also won games 1 (91-85) and 2 (94-87), will be in the finals for the 15th time and will be shooting for its seventh PBA title, and first in four conferences since winning the Philippine Cup last season.
Talk ’N Text’s win also kept the team’s record clean at 13-0 this conference, matching the franchise’s record for consecutive wins which the team established during the 2010 Fiesta Cup.
Already missing three key players in JR Quinahan (knee), Jervy Cruz (knee) and Chris Tiu (knee), Rain or Shine guard Paul Lee only played six minutes in the first period due to an injured right foot.
Chism, who was doubtful prior to the game with a tore MCL (left knee) came off the bench to score 31 points with 14 rebounds. Rookie Raymond Almazan had 13 points while Gabe Norwood and Jeff Chan added 12 and 11 points, respectively.
Talk ’N Text jumped the gun and grabbed a 14-2 advantage. The Tropang Texters even led by 16 points (40-24) with three minutes to play in the second period on a layup by Castro.
It was 55-45 at halftime break.
Lee was held scoreless but a big disappointment for the Painters was Beau Belga who was limited to a free throw.
TALK N’ TEXT 99 – Howell 26, De Ocampo 15, Reyes 15, Castro 10, Fonacier 10, Williams 7, Seigle 6, Canaleta 6, Alapag 3, Carey 1, Aban 0.
RAIN OR SHINE 91 – Chism 31, Almazan 13, Norwood 12, Chan 11, Rodriguez 9, Uyloan 5, Tang 5, Nuyles 2, Teng 2, Belga 1, Arana 0, Lee 0.
Quarterscores: 30-17, 55-45, 80-64, 99-91