Game Today (Smart Araneta)
7 p.m. – Barangay Ginebra
vs Talk ‘N Text (Do-or-die)
Manila, Philippines – Talk ‘N Text versus Barangay Ginebra San Miguel: This one is loaded with more subplots than a Robert Ludlum spy novel.
Consider: MVP vs RSA, corporate Philippines’ six biggest alphabets. TNT coach Jong Uichico against his former players and team management. Ginebra mentor and onetime Mobiline player Jeff Cariaso taking on the franchise he was once a part of. Japeth Aguilar and LA Tenorio battling Gilas Pilipinas brothers Jayson Castro, Ranidel de Ocampo, Larry Fonacier and Jimmy Alapag. The Tropang Texters’ Danny Seigle and Jay Washington, ex-San Miguel stars, clashing with their longtime stablemates, and TNT’s Elmer Espiritu tangling with his former squad.
But all that aside, this is one do-or-die game to determine which one will advance to the best-of-7 semifinals against top seed San Miguel Beer in the PBA Philippine Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum, and which one will cross out ‘championship’ from its Christmas wish list.
Gametime is at 7 p.m., with a blockbuster crowd expected at the Big Dome before the games shift to the Mall of Asia Arena for the duration of the semis.
Both teams can do away with the comparative stats from their elimination round meeting although the Kings did prevail, 101-81, before a mammoth inaugural audience of 50,000-plus at the Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan on Oct. 19.
TNT missed the services of De Ocampo and Alapag, who were given extended rest by Uichico following the Incheon Asian Games, and their absence that evening was a big factor when Ginebra broke the game open in the fourth quarter, outscoring the Texters, 30-19.
This second encounter should be more conclusive, given that both squads will be coming in with a full complement of players.
The Texters wrapped up the elims by winning their last four games and seized a spot in the knockout playoffs by drubbing Barako Bull as a twice-to-beat team, 105-76, at the Ynares Sports Center in Antipolo last Friday.
The Kings, meanwhile, absorbed a 100-90 defeat at the hands of Rain or Shine at the end of the elims but returned with a vengeance to clobber Globalport, 95-78, in the first phase of the quarterfinals, thus setting up the so-called ‘finals before the Finals’ with Talk ‘N Text.
TNT will be relying on the tried-and-tested dribble-drive offense, a hybrid system patterned after the Korean brand of basketball where basically the point guard attacks the defense and then kicks off to open teammates outside the 3-point arc.
Late recoveries by the opposition would mean paying a heavy price since TNT is stocked with lights-out gunners and dependable perimeter marksmen. Ball movement and position improvement are also automatic for the Texters if the defense reacts correctly to the first few passes, with cutters ready to slash through unprotected gaps.
Ginebra, on the other hand, could run the old triangle offense just to see how TNT would adjust. If nothing works out of that Triple Post Offense, the Kings are expected to revert to their ferocious run-and-gun style triggered by Tenorio and Joseph Yeo, with the option of dumping the ball inside to 7-footer Greg Slaughter and inviting the double-team to free up Mark Caguioa and Mac Baracael.
Aguilar, Ginebra’s 6-foot-10 rim-bender and leading shotblocker, will be lurking in the perimeter fringes, waiting for his chance to sneak in and grab misses above the rim and jamming them back in.
TNT plays a more organized and deliberate set of offense and the Texters’ patience and confidence in themselves are their best virtues. If they stay focused and faithful to their game plan, keeping the defense at maximum intensity and forcing turnovers and hurried shots, then they have more than a strong chance of writing the concluding chapter to this story.
If not and Ginebra has its way, turning the sudden death into a free-wheeling playground act and letting its legion of supporters come alive, then the climax could resemble the fourth quarter shambles the Texters fell into four weeks ago.
Experiments are usually reserved for long-winded series like the semis and the finals, so neither team is expected to try out new stuff other than what they are most comfortable with. How either would respond defensively could decide which one gains the pivotal edge.
The other quarterfinal pairing, meantime, saw Alaska ousting Meralco and arranging a rematch of the 2013 Governors Cup semis with tormentor Rain or Shine. Game 1 of their series is on Christmas Day, Thursday, at the MOA Arena.