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More than Castro’s explosion, Talk ‘N Text overcame Purefoods’ wall with solid defense



At the start of the Talk ‘N Text-Purefoods PBA Commissioner’s Cup semifinals series, we previewed that the Tropang Texters usually win by simply outscoring their foes. If they want to win against an equally talented offensive team which also possesses one of the best defenses in the league, they have to get the job done on the defensive end.

The Star Hotshots took Game 1 using premium execution down the stretch, moving well without the ball to score easy and uncontested baskets.

It was at this point when Talk ‘N Text realized that unless they get some stops, they will not emerge victorious even if they wax hot offensively.

This was the problem that coach Jong Uichico tried solving the following game, going with a giant frontline that consisted of three bigs, instead of the usual two bigs plus a swingman, to counter Tim Cone’s huge lineup (Purefoods usually starts with James Yap-PJ Simon-Joe Devance-Marc Pingris-Denzel Bowles).

The troika of Ivan Johnson, Jay Washington, and Ranidel de Ocampo went on to start in each of the last three games, and those matches all led to wins for the Tropang Texters.

Talk ‘N Text put a bigger defender in Johnson on Pingris, and it neutralized the latter’s role as a reader or post threat on offense. In addition, Washington guarded Bowles, while De Ocampo stopped Devance.

During the three-game span (Games 2 to 4), Uichico’s backcourt rotation had Jayson Castro and Larry Fonacier as starters, with Aaron Aban and Kevin Alas coming off the bench.

Talk ‘N Text succeeded as they had a unit with length, while not sacrificing space as all of the players on the floor can hit from the outside. With the tremendous size, the Tropang Texters were able to play better defense, bothered passing lanes, avoided getting beaten on backdoor cuts, and controlled the boards with Johnson staying underneath.

The communication on switching was also on-point and that reduced the number of baskets taken by the Star Hotshots without resistance.

“I think our chemistry has become better offensively and defensively as a team,” Washington said after Talk ‘N Text ended the semifinals series in four games. “Our focus is on the playoffs and every game we tried to improve our rotations and every aspect where we can get better.”

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In Game 4 particularly, Purefoods only had eight assists, their lowest output in the series, and shot 25-for-67 from the field. James Yap had a miserable night as Aban and Fonacier took turns in hounding him. Yap finished with only two points on one-for-eight shooting, and was a minus-23 on the floor.

In contrast, the Johnson-De Ocampo-Washington trio were plus-28 when all three were on the floor at the same time. Johnson played 44 minutes in the series clincher; De Ocampo played 39, while Washington played close to 34. On offense, the three bigs complemented Castro, who would dish to either of the three whenever the defense collapsed.

“I am very impressed with the way Jayson played all conference long. He always makes the right plays on the floor, and it is not necessarily hitting the shot, but finding the open guys and knowing when to take over,” Washington said.

Talk ‘N Text’s 3-big frontcourt rotation Games 2 thru 4:

Ivan Johnson – 19 PPG, 16.3 RPG
Jay Washington – 11.3 PPG, 2.3 RPG
Ranidel de Ocampo – 13.3 PPG, 6.7 RPG

“Playing three bigs was trying to match up with them because that’s how they play but it was an advantage, as we had a lot of guys who can spread the floor. We were not afraid to go that route, and the fact that we can play that way (with three bigs), everybody’s got the same size, and it makes it a lot easier for us defensively,” Washington added.

Uichico’s group succeeded in overcoming a huge obstacle and a championship-tested team with solid effort on the defensive end, more than getting sensational numbers from their offensive weapons in the series.

Purefoods’ offensive rating (points scored per 100 possessions), effective field goal percentage, and assists from Games 2 thru 4 were all below the team’s average output, and this was all because of the Tropang Texters’ defense. From being no. 7 in the elimination round, they have become the no. 3 defensive team among clubs, which made the playoffs.

Against a team like Rain or Shine, which also boosts one of the league’s best offenses, the Tropang Texters will surely need to get the job done defensively.

As the old adage goes, defense wins championships. Talk ‘N Text has proven they do not only outscore teams, but also pull off crucial stops. And now, they are four more wins from returning to the top of the podium.

More than dishing and swishing, Castro becoming the leader Talk ‘N Text needs
For Marqus Blakely, losing is part of Purefoods’ growth
Castro sizzles late as Talk ‘N Text eliminates Purefoods; will battle RoS in Finals

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Calvin Abueva rejuvenated with return of physical play: ‘Masarap maglaro’



Photo by PBA Images

For Calvin Abueva, it feels great to play in the PBA nowadays.

The Beast, who has always been known as one of the league’s most physical players ever since entering in 2012, was all praises with the way the officiating has become this 43rd season, which is just letting all the players play.

“Mas gumanda yung tawagan ngayon, naging physical nga. Naging exciting para sa mga tao, mas marami na nanonood ngayon eh,” said Abueva moments after their 97-83 victory over Barangay Ginebra, Sunday night.

Like what had been told many times, physicality was something that was controlled over the last two years. Abueva knows it too well, having been a casualty of such as he had paid a bevy of penalties during that time.

And now that it can already be called a thing of the past, the 6-foot-2 bruiser feels much better, knowing that he could display his brand of basketball once more.

“Masarap maglaro, talagang pisikalan,” said the 29-year-old forward from Angeles, Pampanga. “Siyempre makikita naman natin kung sinasadya o hindi, basta katawan lang.

“Pisikal. Yun yung magandang laro di ba?”

Aside from the comeback of physicality, what makes Abueva beam even more is the way the Aces have been playing in the 2018 Philippine Cup. After a 0-2 start in the tourney, they have now booked their third straight win.

“Nung 2017 parang nilubog na namin yung losing streak namin doon. Ito 2018 na at panibagong destination na naman yung ina-ano namin,” said Abueva, who had nine points, nine rebounds, and five assists against Ginebra.

“Sustain muna namin ‘to… Sana magtuloy-tuloy ‘tong winning streak namin.”

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Alaska takes advantage of Greg Slaughter’s absence



For the streaking Alaska Aces, their stunning 97-83 victory over the favored Barangay Ginebra San Miguel on Sunday night was partly made possible by the absence of one key player: seven-foot behemoth Greg Slaughter.

The 28-year-old center, who was averaging 20.67 points and 10.3 rebounds prior to Sunday, did not play against the Aces due to a hamstring injury. How he incurred the injury has yet to be determined.

“There’s a small person named Greg Slaughter who didn’t play; I think he has an impact on the game,” quipped coach Alex Compton after the match.

“[They missed] a guy who I think is gonna win an MVP soon in Greg Slaughter.

“Sometimes dito sa liga natin, you have to take advantage when opportunities come your way. You don’t want anybody to get hurt [though],” added Compton.

With Slaughter out of the way, the Aces’ big men feasted.

Vic Manuel top-billed with 18 points and five rebounds, and elder statesman Sonny Thoss turned back the clock with a 17-point, four-rebound outing.

“Malaking bonus na rin sa amin, kasi wala nga si Greg kaya nakuha namin yung panalo,” said Manuel.

“Yeah it definitely helped,” added the six-foot-seven Thoss, who shot 6-of-12 from the floor and made four of his freebies.

“He’s a big guy, he’s a big presence inside so it took one big guy off our shoulder.”

Slaughter was approached and asked by scribes regarding his injury, but he was not in the mood to comment. No one can blame him, though, since the Barangay have slipped to their second straight defeat after a 2-0 start.

“I’m always there in practice, going over our gameplans. But it’s better if you ask our PT,” he said.

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Alaska completes turnaround at Greg Slaughter-less Ginebra’s expense



Photo by PBA Images

A strong second half surge was all the Alaska Aces needed to turn back the heavily-favored Barangay Ginebra San Miguel, 97-83, and book their third straight victory, Sunday night at the Ynares Center in Antipolo City.

The Aces, who have yet to lose this 2018, have now improved to 3-2. Meanwhile, the Barangay absorbed their second straight loss and have dropped to 2-2.

“I was telling the guys na parang ang dami nating iniisip, hindi natin ginagawa yung ginagawa natin noong nakaraang dalawang linggo. Sabi ko relax lang tayo,” said coach Alex Compton, sharing what he told his wards that sparked the win.

Vic Manuel led the Milkmen with 18 points and five rebounds. Sonny Thoss turned back the clock as he made 17 markers on 6-of-12 shooting, while Chris Banchero supplied 14 points, six assists, and five rebounds.

The Aces were trailing by eight, 36-44 at the half, but it became a different ball game come the third chapter as they outscored the Gin Kings, 37 to 19, to erect a favorable 73-63 cushion heading into the game’s final 12 minutes.

From there, Alaska kept their foot on the gas to sustain their lead, which grew to as much as 18, 85-67, after their 6-0 spree — punctuated by Banchero’s lay-up plus a foul — with 6:14 remaining in the final frame.

Ginebra still tried to make one last push as they inched within 10, 75-85, but baskets by Thoss and Kevin Racal propelled Alaska to an 89-75 lead with 3:42 left to play — more than enough to knock out their counterparts.

“I was glad to come away with the win,” added Compton. “Sometimes, we have to take advantage of opportunities coming your way. You don’t want anybody to get hurt but when two number one picks on the other team aren’t playing… There.”

Jvee Casio had 13 markers for Alaska, while Calvin Abueva nearly had a double-double of nine points and nine boards along with five assists in 20 minutes.

Aljon Mariano had 15 points, nine rebounds, and three dimes for Ginebra, who — despite having Sol Mercado back in the fold after ankle issues — missed the services of Joe Devance and Greg Slaughter due to injuries.

Japeth Aguilar, Scottie Thompson, and Kevin Ferrer each scored 12 for the Barangay, with Thompson adding five assists. The trio combined for 15 of Ginebra’s 43 rebounds.

Alaska will aim to extend their streak versus the Blackwater Elite on Saturday, January 27 at 4:30 PM, while Ginebra will look to end their slump against the Phoenix Fuel Masters on Friday, January 26 at 7:00 PM. Both games are at SMART Araneta Coliseum.

The Scores:

Alaska 97 — Manuel 18, Thoss 17, Banchero 14, Casio 13, Abueva 9, Teng 9, Cruz 5, Enciso 3, Potts 3, Exciminiano 2, Magat 2, Racal 2, J. Pascual 0.

Ginebra 83 — Mariano 15, J. Aguilar 12, Ferrer 12, Thompson 12, Caguioa 8, Cruz 8, R. Aguilar 5, Tenorio 5, Mercado 2, Taha 2, Wilson 2, Jamito 0.

Quarterscores: 26-23, 36-44, 73-63, 97-83.

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Frustrated Jared Dillinger admits ‘he’s getting sick’ of Meralco’s bad PH Cup runs



It’s no secret that the Meralco Bolts have always struggled in the Philippine Cup for the last three years. During the last two seasons, the eight-year-old franchise’s win-loss tally is four wins and 18 losses.

And in the 2018 edition, the narrative has been the same, with little to no hope of it turning the other way around.

The Bolts bowed to the TNT Katropa, 99-81, Sunday night — their third straight defeat after winning over Blackwater Elite in their opener last December. If things continue to stay as they are, it looks like it will be another poor all-Filipino tilt run is looming.

“We’re 1-3 and there’s nothing to be happy about,” said Jared Dillinger, who had 14 points and five caroms in the match at Ynares Center in Antipolo. “It’s a long season though… We [shouldn’t] panic but it’s not fun right now.

“The Philippine Cup has been our Achilles heel and every damn Philippine Cup we get our ass kicked. I’m getting sick of it.”

In this game, Meralco missed the services of top forwards Ranidel De Ocampo and Cliff Hodge due to injuries. But for Dillinger, those issues shouldn’t be an excuse.

“When you get two guys like Ranidel and Cliff out, as a team, that’s the opportunity for the guys below them to step up,” expressed Dillinger, who has been with the franchise since 2013.

“It doesn’t have to mean scoring, getting the assists or rebound, it’s just making the right play, being smart.”

Asked what went wrong in this particular loss versus their sister team, where they shot just 39.2 percent from the floor and had committed 17 turnovers, the 10-year veteran lamented the poor effort the Bolts put up.

“TNT didn’t do anything much, given that they played well. But they didn’t have any secret schemes against us. They just passed the ball around, and they got open shots,” added the 10-year pro, as TNT made 23 assists and shot 18 triples.

“Our effort wasn’t there. We got to put up the intensity cause it sucks right now.”

Meralco though has a chance to end their slump against Kia this Wednesday. Dillinger sees it as a do-or-die affair, warning that it will be a grind-out affair knowing that the Picanto is coming off a skid-ending win over Rain or Shine.

Do-or-die ’cause that’s gonna be a playoff game. Thank God they beat Rain or Shine ’cause you don’t want to be that one team that gives the win to a 0-16 [team]. You don’t want to play teams like that,” stressed the all-around forward.

“Nothing to take away from Kia though. It’s gonna be tough.”

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