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PBA: Game 3 tonight

PJ Simon vs. Jimmy Alapag

Texters, Mixers collide
by Tito S. Talao

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

Manila, Philippines – So who’s going to show up for Game 3 tonight? The real McCoy or some phony stuff?

Two days after San Mig Super Coffee coach Tim Cone warned that “we didn’t see the real Talk ‘N Text team” in Game 1 of the PLDT Home TVolution PBA Commissioner’s Cup Finals, the Tropang Texters, the bona fide ones evidently, showed up Sunday and tied the best-of-5 series, 86-76.

Jayson Castro, a leading contender for the Best Player of the Conference award, dropped 30 points, with five 3-point shots in 8 attempts, to lead the genuine Texters in a Game 2 revival after they absorbed an embarrassing 95-80 loss last Friday.

“Effort is the No. 1 thing, plus the sense of urgency,” said TNT coach Norman Black. “We played with a lot more intensity, a lot more energy that resulted in a win tonight. We had to go back to the drawing board to see what San Mig was doing to us. Then we took advantage of the fact that our small guys are being guarded by big guys.”

Meanwhile, the Mixers, the ones who shot close to 60 percent inside the rainbow arc in the opener and unleashed a defensive roar that withered the once-impervious Tropang Texters on their way to their first loss after 13 straight victories, offered hardly an authentic effort.

After unloading 17 points in Game 1, James Yap was held down to six points, while PJ Simon, he with the elegant one-handed arcing jumper, just had four after pouring 16 points two nights ago.

So utterly disappointed was Cone that he benched both scorers for most of the second half, explaining later that the two lost their focus because they were physically spent.

“I just felt that tonight, James and PJ were a little bit off alertness-wise and that’s usually (because of) fatigue and I thought Justin [Melton] was playing extremely well,” Cone told the sports website Spin,ph. “They were playing tired.”

The PBA’s winningest coach added: “I’m trying to think about five games. I’m trying to keep these guys fresh and ready and playing for five games. In a series, you have to have big-picture thinking. We’re trying to think championship. It’s about winning three games for us and whatever way we can do it, we’ll do it.”

Justifications aside, now comes the pivotal third game of the championship at 8 p.m. at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

With both teams proving capable of putting behind a lopsided defeat – and laying to waste a convincing victory – it remains within the realm of speculation to say which one will turn up and actually gun for a 2-1 lead, given the unpredictable start of the series.

TNT appears to have solved the riddle of San Mig’s big defenders, Marc Pingris specifically, trying to stomp over the Texters’ guards and shooters. And the Mixers’ physically-draining playoff battles with Alaska Milk and Air21 seem to be catching up with them.

Under these scenarios, the Tropang Texters hold what could be a critical edge going to tonight’s game although it wouldn’t hurt if Jimmy Alapag and Ranidel de Ocampo were to rediscover their shooting touch.

The Mixers, on the other hand, need Yap and Simon wired back into the offense, and rested or exhausted, missing shots or making them, the two, it must be realized, are far worthier being on the floor than sitting on the bench.