Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Bad blood in PBA finals

Posted by chardyboy on Tuesday, April 26, 2011 0 comments

source: By Joaquin Henson
The Philippine Star

The die is cast. Top-seeded Talk ‘N’ Text battles Barangay Ginebra in a blockbuster best-of-seven series for the PBA Commissioner’s Cup title starting tomorrow at the Araneta Coliseum.

Ginebra took a longer road to the finals than the Tropang Texters. The Kings finished off Rain Or Shine in the quarters before upending Smart Gilas in the semifinals. So far, Ginebra has logged seven games in the playoffs.

In contrast, Talk ‘N’ Text was exempted from the quarterfinals and went straight to the semifinals by virtue of its No. 1 ranking in the eliminations. The Texters had no difficulty disposing of Air 21 in a semifinal sweep, extending their win streak to 11 straight games in all.

Entering the finals, Talk ‘N’ Text has played in 12 games this conference compared to 16 for Ginebra. If winning has become easy for the Texters, the Kings plan a rude awakening.

There’s clearly bad blood between the two teams. Fans still remember the tumultuous best-of-five quarterfinal series in the 2009-10 Philippine Cup where Ginebra stormed back from a 0-2 deficit to eliminate Talk ‘N’ Text before 21,422 fans in Game 5. In Game 4, Talk ‘N’ Text staged a walkout with 60 seconds left in the first period and Ginebra on top, 27-20. The Texters never recovered from the nightmarish experience and bowed in Game 5, 113-100. The opposing coaches – Ginebra’s Joseph Uichico and Talk ‘N’ Text’s Chot Reyes – are back for another duel.

It’s not the first time Uichico and Reyes are squaring off in a finals series. In the 2006-07 Philippine Cup, Uichico piloted Ginebra to the championship over Reyes who then called the shots for San Miguel Beer. That series went six games. Before the conference, Reyes had replaced Uichico as San Miguel coach with Uichico moving to take over the Ginebra helm. Reyes later transferred to Talk ‘N’ Text.

The dimension of collegiate rivalry provides additional color to the coaching match-up as Uichico comes from La Salle and Reyes from Ateneo.

In PBA finals history, Ginebra and Talk ‘N’ Text have met only once before. That was in the 2004-05 Philippine Cup when Siot Tanquingcen, now Uichico’s deputy, coached the Kings to a 4-2 victory over the Texters, then mentored by Joel Banal. The triumph came in controversial fashion.

Talk ‘N’ Text bagged Game 1, 89-71, but the outcome was reversed when then-commissioner Noli Eala ruled that Texters center Asi Taulava was ineligible to play because of a suspension stemming from a citizenship issue. Ginebra went on to win Game 2, 106-105, on Eric Menk’s basket in the last few seconds. Talk ‘N’ Text recovered to even the series before Ginebra clinched the title by taking Games 5 and 6. Taulava, who scored six points in Game 1, didn’t play the rest of the series.

Curiously, two Texters who saw action in the 2004-05 finals are now with Ginebra – Yancy de Ocampo and Willie Miller. The only holdover in the Talk ‘N’ Text roster is Jimmy Alapag. On the other hand, the holdovers in the Ginebra squad are Mark Caguioa, Jay-Jay Helterbrand (out for the conference due to injury) and Menk (who sat out the recent semifinals against Smart Gilas).

No doubt, Reyes will keep in mind his playoff losses to Uichico in 2006-07 and 2009-10 when they lock horns in the Commissioner’s Cup finals. He’ll also remember that painful Talk ‘N’ Text setback to Ginebra in 2004-05.

As for Uichico, he’s looking to re-establish Ginebra as the PBA’s top dog. Ginebra hasn’t won a title since Uichico led the Kings to the 2007-08 Fiesta Conference crown with Chris Alexander in harness. That was Uichico’s eighth championship overall, second with Ginebra. He had previously delivered six crowns to San Miguel. Ginebra went to the 2008-09 Fiesta Conference finals but lost a seven-game thriller to San Miguel, coached by Tanquingcen.

Reyes, 47, is looking for his seventh title overall, third with Talk ‘N’ Text. He also won championships with Purefoods (twice) and Coca-Cola (twice).

Talk ‘N’ Text and Ginebra have crossed paths only once this conference with the Tropa barely prevailing, 102-99, despite major advantages in rebounding, 58-43, asssits, 26-19, fastbreak points, 15-8 and three-point conversions, 10-7. Six Texters wound up in twin digits led by Paul Harris with 23. For Ginebra, Nate Brumfield and Caguioa combined for 51 points.

It’s no secret that for Ginebra to beat Talk ‘N’ Text, the Kings must play tenacious defense. That’s been the key to Ginebra’s success. In the Kings’ 10 wins this conference, they’ve held their victims to an average of 91.7 points. In their six losses, their opponents averaged 102.8 points. The difference of 11.1 points is significant, indicating where Ginebra’s strength is.

The problem is how to contain the Texters who are No. 1 in the league in offense (105.3 points), rebounding (56.8), assists (22.2) and fastbreak points (18). Aside from its defense, Ginebra is known for efficiency – the Kings are averaging 18.9 assists and a league-low 14.1 turnovers. If they maintain a favorable assist-to-turnover ratio, hit their outside shots (Ginebra is No. 2 in three-point percentage) and limit the Texters’ transition points, the Kings could find their way to the throne.

For Talk ‘N’ Text, controlling the tempo is critical – which means the Tropa must dominate the boards. The Texters make a living off multiple possessions. In boxing, they’re the equivalent of a volume puncher. Harris, Ranidel de Ocampo, Kelly Williams, Ali Peek and Harvey Carey will play important roles in protecting the interior.


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