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PBA: TNT, SMB start semifinal series

Tenorio vs Alapag

Game Today (Mall of Asia Arena)
7 p.m. – San Miguel Beer vs Talk ’N Text

Manila, Philippines – After ousting Barangay Ginebra San Miguel, Coach Jong Uichico targets another former team as Talk ’N Text battles top seed San Miguel Beer at the start of their semifinal series in the PBA Philippine Cup today at the Mall of Asia Arena.

Uichico is hoping to ride the momentum of their 83-67 drubbing of the Kings in their do-or-die quarterfinals match as their best-of-seven duel with the Beermen fires off at 7 p.m.

The fourth seeded Tropang Texters advanced to the semifinal round after beating No. 9 Barako Bull Energy Cola (105-76) in the first phase of the quarters, before thumping Ginebra last Tuesday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

TNT’s win over Ginebra was somehow bittersweet for Uichico, who steered the Kings to two championships but left the team in 2012 after a falling out with the management.

This time, Uichico will be up against SMB, a team where he spent his first seven seasons that produced six championships before he was transferred to Ginebra in 2006.

Facing a well-rested and well-prepared San Miguel Beer, according to Uichico, will be tough for his new team, but he understands that for them to be successful in this series, they have to adapt to the situation.

“We have got to learn to play with this kind of disadvantage. Not to mention their size and (Alex) Cagabot as a point guard that can really score,” said Uichico, whose team ended SMB’s six-game winning streak with a 107-101 win last Dec. 5

The TNT mentor, of course, is referring to 6-foot-10 reigning Most Valuable Player June Mar Fajardo, who leads the league in scoring with 18.6 points per game with 12.7 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 2.3 blocked shots.

TNT’s tall players like 6-foot-7 Jay Washington and 6-foot-5 Rob Reyes will have their hands full defending against Fajardo anew.

Fajardo is likely to be double-teamed since nobody from TNT can stop in one-on-one play.

SMB also got Cabagnot back following a deal with Globalport at the trade deadline last week. Cabagnot played for more than three seasons with SMB before he was dealt to Globalport last season.

San Miguel will come into the series on a 9-day break. The Beermen’s last game came last Dec. 9 when they clinched the outright semis berth against expansion team Blackwater.

SMB Coach Leo Austria said Fajardo did not join scrimmages in practice sessions preparing for the semifinals.

“Hindi ko in-allow mag-practice dahil bugbog siya eh. Before 38 to 40 minutes per game, we can’t afford to lose him in the game, so we have an option to rest, an active rest naman kasi nasa gym siya para mag-weights,” said Austria.

Meanwhile, expansion team Kia has signed 7-foot-4 center Peter John Ramos, who played for the national team of Puerto Rico, as the Sorento’s reinforcement in next month’s Commissioner’s Cup.

A former NBA player after his stint with the Washington Wizards in 2005, the 29-year-old Ramos is fresh from his campaign with the Brujos de Guayama, a pro team based in Puerto Rico.