Game Today (Smart Araneta Coliseum)
7 p.m. – Rain or Shine vs Meralco
(Rain or Shine leads series 2-0)
When the going gets tough, Talk ’N Text can always count on Jayson Castro.
Known as “The Blur,” Castro came through with clutch baskets as the Tropang Texters outlasted the Purefoods Star Hotshots, 93-77, to level their best-of-five semis series at 1-1 in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup last night at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
In a game marked by several rugged plays from both squads, it was Castro who stood tall, scoring seven straight points on brilliant one-on-one plays to help the Texters turn what started as a close contest into a rout.
In all, the 5-foot-11 Castro tallied 10 points in the pivotal fourth period to finish with 21 points aside from grabbing seven boards and four assists.
TNT’s breakaway was actually started by Kevin Alas – a rookie guard with a heart of a veteran.
Alas, who finished with 12 points, touched off the team’s onslaught after knocking down back-to-back three-pointers which proved huge enough to inspire both Castro and import Ivan Johnson.
Though he was again outscored by Purefoods counterpart Denzel Bowles, 35-16, it was Johnson who had the last laugh – thanks to his defensive brilliance.
Aside from scoring 16 points and hauling down 20 rebounds, Johnson limited Bowles to only two points in the deciding fourth quarter.
Bowles had a career-best 49 points in the team’s Game 1 win.
“Siyempre kung natalo kami ngayon, it’s hard to be 0-2 down,” said a visibly relieved TNT Coach Jong Uichico, who also got 14 points from Ranidel de Ocampo, 12 markers from Jay Washington and 10 points from Larry Fonacier.
“With this win, at least it gives us a fair shot to get to the Finals,” added Uichico.
The game was so emotional that both Johnson and Purefoods’ Marc Pingris got again into heated exchange of words as they made their way to their respective dugouts.
The two were assessed technical foul each for trash talking late in the game.
“Emotions are really high especially in our series. It’s gonna happen. Teams find ways to win games, so it’s a given that emotions can be high. And we can’t tell our players to back down (on Purefoods),” said Uichico.
Meantime, Rain or Shine tries to finish off Meralco and clinch the first finals berth today in Game 3 of their own semis series.
Even after winning the first two games by convincing margins, Coach Yeng Guiao said the Elasto Painters have to approach the 7 p.m. game with a sense of urgency as they seek the franchise’s fifth finals appearance since entering the league in 2006.
ROS moved within a win of a sweep with a 92-82 victory in Game 2 last Sunday.