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PBA: TNT tries to avoid 0-3 hole

Alex Cabagnot of San Miguel Beermen was being sandwiched defensively by TalkNText defense of Kevin Alas and Aaron Aban during PBA action at MOA Arena.   Photo by Tony Pionilla

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

The playoff series between San Miguel Beer and Talk ’N Text have turned personal. Hopefully, it will not spill into the court when the two teams play Game 3 today at the resumption of their PBA Philippine Cup semifinals at the Mall of Asia Arena.

San Miguel leads 2-0, and unless TNT finds a quick solution, the Beermen are likely to pick up another victory and a 3-0 lead that is nearly insurmountable. No team has come back from that deficit to win a series.

Gametime is set at 7 p.m. with TNT Coach Jong Uichico under spotlight for instigating a verbal war with his former bosses at San Miguel Corporation.

Uichico blamed bad officiating for TNT’s 87-81 loss last Sunday.

He may have stirred a hornet’s nest after insinuating that it’s always the case when playing San Miguel.

Interestingly, Uichico handled San Miguel where he won six championships. He also won two championships for Ginebra, another team under the SMC group.

The comments of the usually mild-mannered Uichico prompted SMC to issue a statement yesterday, criticizing the eight-time champion mentor.

The verbal exchange came after the Beermen displayed poise under pressure that denied the Tropang Texters a chance to tie the best-of-seven series.

Reigning MVP June Mar Fajardo struggled from the field on 2-of-11 shooting as TNT’s defense swarmed him with a triple-team every time he touched the leather down low at the post.

That suffocating defense by the Texters also forced the usually calm 6-foot-10 Fajardo to commit three turnovers, four fouls, and a verbal altercation against TNT’s veteran center Kelly Williams.

However, Fajardo found a way to get back at the opposing team, and that was from the free throw line. He connected 11-of-11 from the stripe – his last two put SMB up 86-81 late in the game.

Fajardo, who had 23 points and 10 rebounds in Game 1, finished with 15 and 12 in Game 2.

Veteran guard Alex Cabagnot, in his second game back with San Miguel Beer following a trade with Globalport at the end of elimination round, came off the bench to collect 21 points punctuated by three three-point shots.

The two players – Fajardo and Cabagnot – are expected to again lead SMB’s attack although Coach Leo Austria has a feeling that Talk ’N Text will fight back.

“Nothing’s sure as of now, even we’re up 2-0. We expect another tough game, and we’re ready,” said Austria, who will also rely on his other key mainstays like former MVP Arwind Santos, Marcio Lassiter, Chris Lutz and Ronald Tubid.

As for Talk ’N Text, while the team had a better shooting performance in Game 2 with 30-of-75 (40%) as compared to Game 1’s 24-of-72 (33%), the team, however, went 12-of-24 (50%) from the free throw line.

That is something that TNT hopes to improve in Game 3, or find a more difficult route of going to the best-of-seven finals showdown by facing must-win situations to stay alive in the playoff race.

“At this point, everything is a must-win,” said Uichico, “It’s difficult, but anything is possible.”