Defending champion Purefoods Star and Talk ’N Text renew their playoff rivalry when they clash in Game 1 of what should be an electrifying best-of-five semifinal showdown in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup starting today at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
It was in this same conference last season that Purefoods – then carrying the colors of San Mig Super Coffee – defeated TNT in the finals to win its third straight championship and 12th overall in franchise history.
Almost three weeks back, the two squads played one of the most exciting and longest games in five seasons when the Hotshots outlasted the Tropang Texters in triple overtime, 118-117, last March 14 in Davao City.
The same intense encounter is expected when they clash at 7 p.m.
“It’s going to be a whale of a series,” said Purefoods coach Tim Cone, whose team’s triple-OT game with TNT was the league’s 10th in history and first since Meralco downed Rain or Shine, 125-124, on Dec. 15, 2010.
“The two teams are pretty much at the top of their games, and both teams have imports they believe in. It’s always a struggle to contain all of TNT’s weapons. That will be our challenge,” added Cone.
The two teams arranged the semifinal series with contrasting wins in the quarterfinal round.
Armed with a twice-to-beat bonus, TNT easily disposed of Barako Bull, 127-97, last Saturday, while Purefoods swept Alaska in their three-game affair following a 96-89 triumph in Game 2 last Sunday.
In their triple-OT win over TNT, Purefoods import Denzel Bowles had 30 points, including a ‘magical’ shot in the final moments with his body almost back to the basket but which nonetheless found nothing but net.
This conference, Bowles – the team’s third import after temporary reinforcement Marqus Blakely and ineffective Daniel Orton – averaged nearly 34 points and 15.20 rebounds in the eliminations.
In the quarterfinal against the Aces, the 6-foot-9 Bowles – a Best Import winner when the team bagged the title in this same conference back in 2012, averaged 26 points and almost 10 rebounds.
TNT, on the other hand, will rely on former NBA player Ivan Johnson, the Texters’ second import after Rich Howell.
The 6-foot-8 Johnson averaged almost 34 points and 15 boards in the eliminations and fired 35 points on 6-of-11 shooting from three-point area in the team’s victory over Barako Bull in the quarters.