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PBA: Mixers brace for TnT fightback

Jayson Castro vs. Marc Pingris

by Tito S. Talao

Game Today (Smart Araneta Coliseum)
5 p.m. – Talk ‘N Text vs San Mig

Manila, Philippines – San Mig Super Coffee coach Tim Cone believes the “real Talk ‘N Text team” will emerge in Game 2 this afternoon. The way they were a “no-show” in the opener Friday, Norman Black, the Tropang Texters mentor, should have no objection to that happening.

Buoyed by their overwhelming 95-80 victory in Game 1, the Mixers shoot for a 2-0 lead over the Tropang Texters at 5 p.m. in the PLDT Home TVolution PBA Commissioner’s Cup best-of-5 Finals at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

By that time, Black hopes they had unearthed some clues as to how they got buried two days ago despite hitting 9 of 24 three-point attempts while holding the Mixers to 1 of 13 treys. If they hadn’t, then expect much of the same along these lines: 21 San Mig fast break and 21 turnover points to TNT’s 4 and 12; 48 percent shooting to 36 percent, Ranidel de Ocampo 1 of 13 from the field, and Jimmy Alapag 1 of 3.

De Ocampo, the outside trigger for TNT’s drive-and-kick offense, missed his first four outside shots and struggled the rest of the way to find his touch, while Alapag rammed into the defense of Marc Pingris from the opening jump and never got going.

“For some reason, we didn’t have the energy tonight,” said a perplexed Black after watching his well-rested erstwhile undefeated team get run over by an opponent who’s supposed to be on its knees from exhaustion and gasping for breath.

Cone offered some explanation.

“I think a couple things happened. One, we carried our momentum [from] the last [game against Air21]. I thought that carried over and kind of gave us a mental lift,” he said.

Indeed it was San Mig, which survived a rugged and hostile quarterfinal playoffs with Alaska and lived to tell the tale of a physically draining semifinal series with Air21, firing on all cylinders.

James Yap scored 17 points without hitting a single 3-point shot, PJ Simon added 16, with 10 delivered in the breakaway third quarter, and four others struck in double figures.

They connected on 57 percent of their shots from inside the arc to effectively cover 12 clanged 3-point attempts and loosened the brakes and gunned down the gas pedal in the second half that left the Tropang Texters eating dust.

“They came out with a lot of defensive intensity and forced us into a lot of turnovers which is uncharacteristic of us,” said Black. “But this is probably a wake-up call. Next time, hopefully, we’ll be more tuned in.”

Cone doesn’t need to be forewarned.

“Obviously, they were not as sharp. But we know we didn’t see the real Talk ‘N Text team tonight; it’ll be different on Sunday,” said Cone, who drew a technical in the midst of a 7 deadlock, 8 leadchange first half but nothing close to what De Ocampo and Alapag invited.

The two TNT starters were called for flagrant one fouls on separate occasions, with De Ocampo sitting down three minutes and Alapag five, highlighting the general feeling of frustration that took over the Texters when every three-point bomb they threw failed to stop the relentless Mixers who kept charging forward.

Black denied the 13-game winning streak has become a burden nor did it contribute to the Texters’ apparent sense of invincibility going to Game 1.

“No, it hasn’t. San Mig just had more energy tonight,” Black said.