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PBA: Ginebra, Texters face off today

Devance and Paul Harris

by Tito S. Talao

Games Today (Smart Araneta)
3 p.m. – Alaska vs Barako Bull
5:15 p.m. – Talk ‘N Text vs Barangay Ginebra

Manila, Philippines – What fate awaits Barangay Ginebra San Miguel going to the quarterfinals will be known today even as the resurgent Alaska Aces fight to keep flickering hopes from getting extinguished.

The Kings gun for a top four slot and a twice-to-beat advantage in the playoffs when they face solo leader Talk ‘N Text at 5:15 p.m. after the 3 p.m. curtainraiser between Alaska and Barako Bull in the PBA PLDT Home Telpad Governors’ Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Talk ‘N Text, with a 6-2 win-loss card, clinched the first twice-to-beat edge in the playoffs by beating San Mig Super Coffee, 92-88, last Friday at the Mall of Asia Arena.

Paul Harris hit 9 of 15 three-point shots on the way to 39 points as TNT handed San Mig its third loss in eight games.

Ginebra, on the other hand, fell to the resurrected Aces, 79-66, and dropped to a four-way tie at second spot with a 5-3 record. A win would be a big relief for the Kings, but a loss could have dire consequences, especially if Alaska beats Barako Bull in the first game.

At 3-5, the Energy Cola, regardless of the outcome of their game against the Aces, are safe at eighth place at worst, having distanced themselves from ousted teams Meralco and Globalport.

Alaska (4-4), however, continues to fan a faint bid to join the twice-to-beat teams, which need only to win once over their playoff opponents to advance to the semifinals.

Depending, to a large extent, on the outcome of yesterday’s Petron Saturday Special game between Air21 (5-3) and San Miguel Beer (4-4) which was ongoing at presstime at the Alonte Sports Arena in Binan, Laguna, both Ginebra and Alaska are going to the penultimate schedule of the elimination focused on the same goal: a crucial edge in the playoffs.

Ginebra will have to do a better job though than the sloppy effort it came up with against Alaska where the Kings missed 13 of 14 three-point shots and turned the ball over 27 times (to the Aces’ 15), giving up 27 points in return. LA Tenorio committed six, Zach Graham five, Japeth Aguilar four, and Mark Caguioa and Chris Ellis three each.

Norman Black, the TNT coach, is not about to cut the Kings some slack though.

“This victory [over San Mig Coffee] is very important because it gives us six wins,” he said. “We needed this for our confidence. We have a big game on Sunday against Ginebra.”

As bitter as the the Kings’ loss to the Aces, however, it was a particularly painful one to swallow for the Meralco Bolts, who saw their desperate bid to stay alive snuffed out.

At 2-6, Meralco can go on to beat Globalport (Saturday) (and Barako Bull could lose to Alaska, leaving the Bolts and the Energy Colas tied), but still not prevail due to the winner-over-the-other rule.

Meanwhile in Binan, Laguna, Meralco downed Globalport, 123-95 while the San Miguel Beermen won over the Air21 Express, 101-88.