Congruence, symmetry & three for history
Talk ‘N Text are champions again. And the numbers tell it all.
by rick olivares
If you dissect Talk ‘N Text’s Game Four 105-82 victory over Rain or Shine to clinch the Philippine Cup championship via four-game sweep with geek eyes looking for signs that this was written in the stars then you’ll rub yours eyes and say, “Oh, wow.”
Rain or Shine’s Beau Belga hit a shot and was fouled. That made the score 80-71. Belga could have further chipped at the lead but he missed the free throw.
The conference’s best player, Jayson Castro threw up a three-point shot on TNT’s next possession then asked to be subbed out as fatigue set in.
Then came the barrage that finished off Rain or Shine.
Forward Jared Dillinger, who would finish with 14 points, nailed a trey with Elasto Painter Ryan Araña on him; 83-71.
Then Kelly Williams got his third slam dunk of the game, a highlight reel three-point play alley-oop slam off a pass by Ranidel de Ocampo with Jervy Cruz playing the foil; 86-71.
A stop on their defensive end, TNT got the ball back and this time De Ocampo stroked a three from the left corner to hike the score to 89-71.
Guard Ryan Reyes got in on the numbers game with a three-point play against a hard-luck Cruz; 92-71.
Then longtime team captain Jimmy Alapag hit two consecutive triples, the last one from what – 25-26 feet away – for a 98-76 lead with 4:05 left to play.
Those were six three-point shots/plays in two minutes and 36 seconds that effectively put out the fight of ROS and the championship in TNT’s hands with only the final score to be settled.
At the final buzzer, Talk ‘N Text became the first PBA team in three decades to win three straight All-Filipino championships. They were also only the third team to sweep a best-of-seven series after Swift Mighty Meaty gave Seven-Up the broom in 1992 and when Purefoods shut out Alaska in 2010.
There’s the Tropang Texters’ final score – 105. Break it down further – “10” for Norman Black’s 10 PBA titles and “5” for the five straight UAAP titles Mr. 100% won with Ateneo de Manila.
It was also TNT’s fifth title in five years.
You want more? Norman Black is the third coach to win a championship with the franchise (the other two being Joel Banal in 2002 and Chot Reyes with titles won in 2008-09, 2010-11, and 2011-12.
From the opening tip, it looked like the Tropang Texters were intent on finishing the game early on.
They once more raced to an early double-digit lead while Rain or Shine shockingly looked like a beaten team even in only the first few minutes of Game Four.
The Tropang Texters’ first quarter shooting was impeccable (50%); their teamwork even more impressive.
After the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters’ Larry Rodriguez put his side up, 7-4 with a jump shot, TNT’s Larry Fonacier answered with a trey to level the count. Twenty-six seconds later, at the 8:02 mark, the Tropang Texters’ Jimmy Alapag drove from the right side of the court. The TNT point guard drew the defense before issuing a bounce pass to a cutting Ranidel Ocampo.
Ocampo’s running jump hook gave his side a 9-7 lead. One they would not relinquish even when the Elasto Painters came roaring back in the fourth period to come within a bucket of drawing level.
The experience of Talk ‘n Text showed definitely in Game Four as they played with no jitters in dispatching Rain or Shine. A three-games-to-none lead will give you all the confidence in the world for sure but what was clearly evident is how the Tropang Texters looked superbly conditioned and how their offense and defense – so similar to what the Ateneo Blue Eagles have been doing in the crunch against heralded squads – was a huge difference.
I thought that what makes this Talk ‘N Text team even more lethal is their willingness to make the extra pass that led to easier baskets. After two quarters, TNT had 19 assists!
I was quite shocked that Rain or Shine seemed a shell of itself as they looked timid. The scorching start that saw TNT amass a 16-point lead at 29-13 with the first quarter almost done.
I’d give credit to Ryan Araña, TY Tang, and later Chris Tiu for trying to put some spark in ROS’ game with their willingness to be more aggressive and physical. With TNT’s perimeter defense porous, ROS got some points inside. The Elasto Painters clogged the inside and forced TNT to shoot from the outside. And it worked as they brought the lead down to 53-46 at the half.
A response of back-to-back triples by Larry Fonacier and Ranidel de Ocampo restored a double-digit lead for TNT and stretched the defensive vise that clogged the shaded lane.
However, just as they have all series long, TNT responded to a ROS run with a back breaking one of their own.
ROS, hoping against hope, had one more run in them. They brought the lead down, 65-63 following a Chris Tiu bucket. TNT went back to what got them their early lead – the extra pass.
Jared Dillinger found an open Ali Peek who obliged with a jumper that was all net. If ROS was going to double team Peek inside, JD served notice that they will have to play straight up honest D when he drilled a trey to give his side some breathing space, 70-63.
And then came the six three-point shots/plays that broke whatever was left of ROS’ spirit. TNT hit 14 triples for the series clincher while the Elasto Painters with snipers Jeff Chan, Paul Lee, Chris Tiu, TY Tang (including the bigs who can also hit the three-ball) managed only 2-17 for a poor 11.8%. That's horrible for a team that makes great use of the trey as part of their offense.
As for Talk ‘N Text and Norman Black – what a run. I know it was the product of hard work, discipline, and a commitment to defense. But the symmetry – incredible.