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PBA: Texters, Mixers clash at Big Dome

Burtshcer, Pingris, Ramos and Witherspoon

by Tito S. Talao

Game Today (Smart Araneta)
8 p.m. – San Mig Super Coffee vs Talk ‘N Text

Manila, Philippines – It would be best for both Talk ‘N Text and San Mig Super Coffee not to forget what fate befell them two years ago in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup Finals. For the Tropang Texters, five conferences gone by may not be long enough to put behind such an ex cruciating loss.

For the Mixers, then known as the B-Meg Llamados, neither perhaps is it too far back for them to forget how much they celebrated.

Either with sheer ecstasy or with lingering anguish, the memory of that championship series will be seared in the minds of both teams when they clash in Game 1 today of the PLDT Home TVolution PBA Commissioner’s Cup Finals at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Gametime is at 8 p.m.

During that season of uncertainty, Talk ‘N Text appeared headed for the second jewel of the Triple Crown after bagging the Philippine Cup earlier. But the Llamados, with James Yap, Marc Pingris and an unforgettable import named Denzel Bowles, dragged the Tropang Texters to an epic Game 7 and there shattered TNT’s dreams of joining Crispa, San Miguel Beer and Alaska in the pantheon of Grand Slam winners.

Now the roles are reversed, with Norman Black and the Texters getting their shot at Tim Cone and the Mixers after the latter had won the 2014 Philippine Cup. “We can’t wait to start the finals,” said Black, the 1989 Grand Slam-winning mentor who is eyeing his 12th championship in 16 final appearances.

“We’re focused on the job at hand, we’re ready to play. Our goal is to win the championship,” added Black in yesterday’s Finals press conference at the Sambokojin Restaurant in Eastwood, Quezon City.

The undefeated Texters are on a franchise-tying 13-game winning run from the elimination and looking to reset the mark they posted during the 2010 Fiesta Cup. Cone acknowledged the difference in their win-loss records but not its impact.

“Our overall record is 9-8, they’re 13-0… a big disparity there. We have to go eight games to get to the finals… they got there in three games. So no doubt it’s going to be tough,” said Cone, a Grand Slam winner in 1996.

“But we’re clinging on that experience. My team is experienced enough, we know how to turn it around,” added the PBA’s winningest coach with 17 titles on 28 final appearances.

TNT swept Rain or Shine in the best-of-5 semifinals while San Mig needed five games to put away conference revelation Air21. The Texters will be coming off a seven-day break which should give them ample advantage if the series stretches to five games and the matches turn fast and furious.

The import matchup is just about even between TNT’s Richard Howell (21.4 points and 19.3 rebounds) and San Mig’s James Mays (20.8 points and 17.4 rebounds). But then again, Howell will be well-rested while Mays is still catching his breath from his bruising matchup with Asi Taulava in the semis. San Mig is on its franchise 26th finals and gunning for a 12th championship, while Talk ’N Text is making its 15th appearance in search of its seventh title.

“It’s always crucial,” said Black of the opener. “If we can have a good start, it’ll be good for us. Their energy level is up, and their confidence level is up after their series with Air21. But the rest is helpful for us due to some injuries.”

Cone agrees.

“We’re coming in from such great momentum, and great confidence. We got to come out and try to bring the momentum we had from our semis win to good use,” he said.