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Round Table: PBA Commissioner’s Cup Finals Rain or Shine vs. Talk ‘N Text



After 79 games, we are down to our last two teams in this season’s PBA Commissioner’s Cup. Interestingly, the top two teams in the standings after the elimination round ended up facing each other in the Finals, the #1 seed Rain or Shine Elasto Painters and the #2 seed Talk ‘N Text Tropang Texters.

In their only meeting this conference, last January 28, 2015, the Tropang Texters were able escape the game with the W, 89-86. It was the first game for the Texters without their former captain Jimmy Alapag. Moreover, Willie Miller made his Talk ‘N Text debut in this game scoring 10 points in just 19 minutes.

Jayson Castro scored 15 points and stole the show with his hang time shot at the end of the game that gave the Texters a three-point cushion for good. Richard Howell also made tough shots all throughout, scoring 7 of his 13 points in the fourth quarter to go with his 12 rebounds.

To dissect the series, we invited four basketball experts and pundits. Here are their answers to our questions.

The panelists are:

ADIELAdiel Sam de Jesus is the EIC of DLSU Sports and currently an assistant coach (analytics) for the Lyceum of the Philippines University Pirates.
JANDRICJandric Lim is a regular contributor at SLAM Magazine and Tiebreaker Times.
Rolly Mendoza is one half of the Hoop Nut tag team. He is also a Science teacher at the ADMU High School.
Levi Verora Jr. is the resident PBA beat writer for Tiebreaker Times. Levi is also a contributor at SLAM Online and at SB Nation’s Swish Appeal.


TBTimes: During the start of this conference, did you expect the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters and the Talk ‘N Text Tropang Texters to be the final two teams standing?

Adiel: Rain or Shine yes. Talk ‘N Text no. During the start of the season, I was expecting that Purefoods or Alaska will take the other Finals spot. I was expecting the Tropang Texters to only reach the semis and being eliminated at that stage.

Jandric: Like everyone else, I thought that the San Miguel Beermen had pulled it together and had them penciled in back in the Commissioner’s Cup Finals. On paper, I honestly felt that Purefoods, with the original addition of Marqus Blakely, had the superior lineup and chemistry as compared to other teams and their respective imports.

Rolly: Well, I had one of them standing at the end, Talk ‘N Text. The other team was San Miguel Beer. As the conference progressed, I changed the other team to the Meralco Bolts (yikes!) while I stood firm with TNT.

Levi: Rain or Shine has always been in the conversation and because of a higher seeding, they had a relatively lighter schedule although this is nothing to take away from their strength as an elite team. With new weapons they have successfully returned to the last dance and they are just more competitive than ever. On the other hand, I did not have Talk ‘N Text reaching the Finals since, on paper, Purefoods was a huge favorite.

TBTimes: Who had the better showing in their semifinals series? Rain or Shine sweeping Meralco in three games, or Talk ‘N Text locking down Purefoods in the last three games of their series against Purefoods?

Adiel: Talk ‘N Text. Rain or Shine was just in superb shooting mode. Talk ‘N Text had a better defense which translated to great offense.

Jandric: After that demoralizing Game 1 loss with everything going in for Purefoods, I thought that we would get a lot of back and forth from both teams but Talk ‘N Text impressed by managing to regroup against a contender, winning the next three games convincingly. That is not to take anything away from Rain or Shine but from what I saw, it was clear that Meralco was overmatched against them, especially when any of their big men got into foul trouble.

Rolly: I think RoS had a better TEAM performance versus Meralco because a lot of players contributed (Uyloan, Almazan, Cruz, etc.) and RoS appeared to have an easier time disposing of Meralco. On the other end, TNT had a much tougher opponent (Purefoods) and they depended on Jayson Castro to deliver 3 straight insane games. In short, RoS had the better team showing while TNT had the best player.

Levi: I will still say Talk ‘N Text had the better showing only because Purefoods was a favorite on paper and had tools to defeat the Tropang Texters. Rain or Shine also had an easier opponent in Meralco. But Jayson Castro spearheaded what was a phenomenal comeback from the team, winning three straight. Many were surprised and that makes it the more impressive semis win.

TBTimes: Who has the advantage in each of these four categories? Backcourt, Big Men, Bench and Coaching?

Backcourt (Tie-2, RoS-1, TNT-1)

Adiel: Backcourt is equal. Lee and Castro will cancel each other out discounting the possible team defense from both squads. Kevin Alas might be the Texters’ edge but the depth of backup guards of RoS will cancel it out.

Jandric:  Tie. This is as good as even in my books. Aside from the Best Player of the Conference candidates, their backcourt partners are very capable of contributing on both ends of the floor. I would not label them as lockdown defenders but neither are they lacking in that aspect.

Rolly: Backcourt goes to RoS because they have more options (Tiu, Uyloan, Chan, Cruz) and they have a player, Paul Lee who can definitely score as many points (or more) than Castro.

Levi: Backcourt: TNT. I’m picking TNT only because Jeff Chan is not yet a hundred percent. Other than that it is too tight. Jayson Castro and Paul Lee are even in many ways; there are shooters for TNT but perimeter defenders for RoS. It’s almost even to say the least.

Big Men (RoS-1, TNT-3)

Adiel: Big Men will be for RoS. Chism is way better than Johnson on the post. Extra Rice co. and Almazan will give RoS a wide edge in that department.

Jandric: Slight edge to Talk ‘N Text. Matt Ganuelas-Rosser is Gabe Norwood 2.0, not to mention Ivan Johnson bringing in what Wayne Chism is contributing to the table so nullify both those match-ups. The imports both have strong scoring and rebounding skills. Moreover, they anchor the defense of their teams well. For the fan who may have seen Johnson in the NBA, they might just tip slightly the favor his way because of his menacing toughness.

Though there are similarities in the games of all frontcourt players in the starting lineup, it’s the RDO-Big Beau match-up that will be interesting to watch. Will Belga be forced to move out of the paint to challenge De Ocampo’s long distance rainbows, allowing the Texters to pull the biggest Elasto Painter out of the paint? If not, how will they cover these agile big men all at once?

Rolly: This goes to TNT because they have better shooters/scorers with the likes of RDO, J-Wash, Kelly and Seigle.

Levi: Bigs: TNT. Ranidel de Ocampo is still one of the best forwards in the league and Jay Washington has played steadily in the Finals. TNT has the edge in this category simply because of the multi-faceted forwards that they have.

Bench (RoS-4, TNT-0)

Adiel: Bench will be definitely for RoS with no explanation needed.

Jandric: Rain or Shine. The rest of the Bench Tropa usually involves a mix of seasoned veterans and spry young talent. Kevin Alas, Willie Miller, Jay Washington, and Harvey Carey will all bring their combined playoff experiences to outhustle the opposing bench.

With that said, this is where Elasto Painters’ depth will reign supreme. Great combination of guards and big men to fill in capably for the starters. Substitutions can come in a flurry, and fresh legs might mean the difference between chasing down a loose ball for an extra possession. There is no better time for Raymond Almazan to be stepping up his game than now. Jonathan Uyloan, Chris Tiu, and the Cruzes will all have their share in the limelight should Coach Yeng continue his unpredictable ways.

Rolly: Bench goes to RoS because they can have different starting lineups and their players are ready to play anytime..

Levi: Bench: RoS. They’re 15-deep and that’s all everyone needs to know. Everyone is healthy; the young guns have improved and it is simply a competitive team from top to bottom.

Coaching (RoS-2, TNT-2)

Adiel: Coaching goes to Jong Uichico. This is in terms of court tactics. Rotation coaching, however, will hands down go to Coach Yeng.

Jandric: Yeng Guiao. I may not be the biggest of fans of his “cute” rotations, but for the team, it empowers every player to step up when their number is called. On the other hand, Talk ‘N Text’s dribble-drive offense might be predicated on how many shots their shooters can make to space out the floor for Castro’s individual exploits to the rim, which somewhat makes Coach Jong Uichico’s squad more predictable.

In an egalitarian system that probably is most relatable to Spursian ways, the Elasto Painters know that they will have their time, no matter how short, to be involved. I’m just wary of isolation plays called by Paul Lee but if they stick to their ball movement, they will force the Texters to be on their heels on defense.

Rolly: Coaching goes to TNT because Coach Jong is less likely to cost his team a technical foul or two.

Levi: Coaching: RoS. Again, nothing to take away from Jong Uichico but Yeng Guiao took years to build this team using draft picks, a few negotiations, and countless hours of honing their craft. The players that they have now were not the same years back and it was all because of sticking to a program. In a way he also gets the nod because he has been there for so long while Uichico was named head coach only this season.

TBTimes: Which team will win this series and in how many games?

Adiel: Rain or Shine in six games.

Jandric: This is a very, very tough call because if you assess both rosters, talent is relatively distributed evenly across all positions not to mention the leading Best Player candidates in Jayson Castro and Paul Lee. Having a deep rotation allows fresher legs for defense, however, tightening the roles between an eight to nine-man cast makes way for better on-court chemistry.

Moreover, both teams have their fair share of championship battles with experienced coaches and tested veterans keeping everyone focused on the task at hand. This will go all the way to Game 7 and until the “we’re hungrier” testimonials are personified on the floor, Talk ‘N Text gets the slightest of edge based on track record that they’ve taken care of Rain or Shine when it mattered most. Until they are defeated, the Texters will have earned the benefit of the doubt.

Rolly: Talk ‘N Text in six games.

Levi: Talk ‘N Text in six games.

TBTimes: And finally, who takes home the Best Player of the Conference Award? Rain or Shine’s Paul Lee or Talk ‘N Text’s Jayson Castro? Based on your pick, what makes them the most indispensable player for their team?

Adiel: Jayson Castro. I think Castro is just sensational right now and he’ll take the award. There’s no signs of slowing down at this point while Paul Lee will have to battle minute restrictions due to his team’s rotation. It’s tough to win an individual award with a team that is 12-deep like the Elasto Painters. They’re both indispensable as I think they are off equal value in terms of individual skill set but the Blur’s excellent Commissioner’s Cup campaign will bag him the BPC award.

Jandric: Both Jayson Castro and Paul Lee (who shares the same barber as I do) have carried their teams all the way to the Finals. Their averages do not give justice to how important both players have been to running their respective offenses. Both have the capabilities of breaking down their man one-on-one, thus opening opportunities to create their own shots or dish out to open teammates.

There really isn’t a wrong answer choosing between either Gilas stalwarts, but I would give Castro the edge for elevating his play after Jimmy Alapag’s transition. Not having the Mighty Mouse at his side has allowed teams to pay close attention to him on defense but he’s still managed to maintain his solid production night in and night out.

Rolly: Jayson Castro should win BPC. The Blur should win this because he has better stats than Lee and he does more things for TNT. Castro is a better scorer, passer and defender than Lee. Without Castro, we might be talking about RoS vs Purefoods.

Levi: Jayson Castro simply because of his role in the team. He is the leader, scorer, creator, everything. Take him away and TNT won’t look the same. Nothing to take away from Lee who is also like that, but because of Guiao’s system, many can score and many can create for the squad. It’s a star-less, well-organized squad who can get production from 1 to 15.

Agree or disagree with the guys? Sound-off in our Comments Sections


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Hoop Nut One on One: Predicting the Comm Cup Finals, BPC, and Best Import

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Roger Pogoy churns best performance against former teammates



Prior to Wednesday, all eyes were on the TNT Katropa-Blackwater Elite face-off, with many curious to see how last season’s Rookie of the Year Roger Pogoy would fare against his former FEU teammates Mac Belo and Raymar Jose.

And as the final buzzer sounded, the 25-year-old Pogoy had reigned triumphant over his close pals, getting away with a conference-best performance as a bonus.

The six-foot-two Cebuano sniper fired a game-high 24 points on 10-of-14 shooting, along with eight rebounds, three assists, and two steals, to lead the Texters to a skid-ending, 92-83 victory at the SMART Araneta Coliseum.

“Must-win talaga namin ‘to para makabawi kami, kasi 1-2 na yung standing namin (before the game) eh.

“Buti na lang maganda yung nilaro ko,” said Pogoy, who was just averaging 11.3 points in the past three games.

But Pogoy tipped his hat to the much taller Elite, who enjoyed plenty of time in the driver’s seat in the first half, until the Katropa found their groove in the third canto — highlighted by a 16-3 rally that put them ahead, 60-53.

“Malakas yung Blackwater eh, tapos ang lalaki nila kaya mahirap mag-drive, mahirap pumasa kasi naagaw nila,” said Pogoy. “Buti na lang naka-adjust kami nung second half. Hindi kami nagmadali, dinahan-dahan namin.”

Aside from his own outing, Pogoy is thankful that they were able to address their fourth quarter woes when facing the Elite — the issue that hounded them in their 76-88 loss to the San Miguel Beermen last Saturday in Iloilo.

TNT had actually been mere steps away from melting down — again — against Blackwater, no thanks to a 20-9 run that wiped out their 17-point lead to just six,

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With Nash Racela knowing his tendencies, Mac Belo limited to poor shooting



Prior to Wednesday, Blackwater Elite’s young star Mac Belo was on a roll early in the 2018 Philippine Cup, averaging exactly 20 points on 42.6 percent shooting in their games against Meralco, Rain or Shine, and Ginebra.

But, as they say, good things must come to an end.

Belo, despite having 13 rebounds, was held to just nine points on 4-of-18 shooting as the Elite bowed to TNT Katropa, 92-83 — a sour loss knowing that they’re coming off huge 94-77 win against Ginebra last Friday.

“Bukol,” said Belo in jest of his poor outing after the match. “Big test para sa’min kasi yung TNT talagang isang de-kalibreng team dito sa PBA.

“Talagang pinaghandaan nila kami, at gustong-gusto nila manalo.”

It also did not help that the Katropa’s head coach, Nash Racela, was his coach in FEU Tamaraws for three years — a relationship brightly highlighted by a championship run in the UAAP Season 78 back in 2015.

“Siyempre alam niya yung mga tendencies ko. Matagal ko siyang coach sa FEU,” said the 6-foot-4 forward.

“Sa akin naman, kailangan ko pa matuto sa ganun, kung anong mga defense binabato niya sakin. Kailangan ko pang pag-aralan.”

But for Belo, the loss was more than his own showing. The 25-year-old lamented his and the Elite’s lapses on defense, which was encapsulated by the second half collapse they had that allowed TNT to come back and steal the win.

“Medyo marami lang kaming lapses especially sa defense namin,” said the sophomore forward, as they allowed TNT to shoot 41.6 percent from the floor. “Maraming mga miscommunication na kailangan pa namin i-work.”

Belo and the Elite are now set to move on from this bitter defeat, as they all shift their sights in their match this Friday versus GlobalPort Batang Pier. For the Gilas Pilipinas stalwart, it is already a must-win for them.

“Kailangan namin ng rest ngayon kasi back-to-back games kami. We need to win sa Friday para okay sa’min,” said Belo. “Kailangan din namin paghandaan kasi galing sila sa win.

“Kailangan namin i-double yung effort namin.”

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Jake Vicen performs under pressure as Blazers end eight-year title drought



For the second straight match, the championship showdown between the College of Saint Benilde Blazers and the Arellano University Chiefs reached kicks from the penalty spot. And once more, goalkeeper Jake Vicen came up big.

The third-year custodian denied one of Arellano’s prolific scorers Roberto Corsame in the shootout and sealed the title after eight long years, 3-2, penalties, Wednesday evening at the historic Rizal Memorial Stadium.

The Blazers made its intentions clear from the get-go as they repeatedly pierced through the defense of the Chiefs.

Nonetheless, at the 38th minute, the white-shirts clinched the goal they much deserved. The Blazers pushed forward, and almost got a call in their favor. The referees, however, played advantage, and fortunately Benilde held on to the play.

Miguel Artillera found himself unmarked on the right flank and easily blasted the ball past opposing keeper Jericho Desalisa.

The Marlon Maro—mentored side continued to play aggressive in the following period and almost plucked a second one. This time, the Chiefs’ backline led by eventual Best Defender Patrick Bernarte held on.

Such stand was rewarded by their attacking force minutes later, and, as expected, the equalizer came from the counterattack.

Corsame received a pass from the middle and defeated two defenders, and seeing Vicen off his line, sent the ball into the onion bag at the 49th minute.

Both sides tried to break the deadlock, but fatigue slowly crept in the dying minutes of the second period and the whole of extra time, setting up another thrilling finish in the shootout.

Much like in Game 2, the two keepers came up big as Desalisa and Vicen denied their second kickers a clear shot. Arellano went to miss another shot, and it was then up to the Blazers to seal the deal.

Dean Ebarle stepped up and calmly and slotted the ball into the goal for the lead at 3-2. Afterwards, Corsame faced Vicen, but this time, the Cebuano keeper would not be denied. The latter went to his strong side, and, fortunately, guessed right for the huge save as pandemonium erupted from the Benilde crowd and squad.

The Finals series hero and season Best Goalkeeper Vicen was pleased that the new champions carved out the historic win despite early adversity. “Big loss ‘yun, si Val [Calvo], kasi may magagawa talaga siya kung nakalaro namin,” he said of losing their former captain.

Nonetheless, the squad stayed focused on getting it done this year.

“Binuhos lang namin every minute sa training. Luckily, hard work paid off,” closed Vicen.

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Kelly Williams rides Angkas to make it to TNT game



The TNT Katropa almost played shorthanded when they took on the Blackwater Elite Wednesday evening at the SMART-Araneta Coliseum.

Early in the afternoon, a fire broke out in C5 that caused major traffic in the area. One of the people that was stuck was TNT’s 12-year veteran Kelly Williams.

“Coming from the South, I got to Taguig in about two and a half hours and I heard there was a fire on C5 and I was like, ‘Oh my god what am I going to do?’,” recalled Williams.

“I considered running, I considered jogging. Whatever you got to do, crawl, walk or run.”

Panicking, the 6-foot-6 Filipino-American was adviced by his driver to download Philippine-based mobile app Angkas — a motorcycle service provider. And it was one heck of a ride for the big man.

“My driver said check Angkas, an Uber for motorcycles. Okay. Quickly got out of the car in the middle of the C5, the middle of traffic, found this guy under the overpass, he was surprised to see me,” narrated animatedly by Williams.

“I got my helmet on, jumped on the bicycle and we got here for about 40 minutes,” he furthered. “Every stoplight, the other motorcycles pull up, double take, ‘Oh, what are you doing here?’, ‘Hi guys!’ It was fun, it was actually pretty fun but never again, make sure you plan ahead guys if you possibly get stuck in traffic.

“But it was a good experience for me. You get to see Manila in a different light.”

Around midway through the first quarter of the game, Williams finally arrived. Though relieved to see him, coach Nash Racela and the rest of the Katropa made sure to let him know that he was late.

“Good experience, I apologized to the team, I owe them a team lunch or something and I told coach I won’t do it again,” the 35-year-old expressed.

“Let’s pray that it doesn’t happen again.”

Williams compensated for it by giving TNT quality minutes. During their 92-83 win against the Elite, he tallied six points, six rebounds, and four blocks in just 17 minutes of action.

“You got to come out there with extra effort after coming in late like that. But it’s always my intention to come out and do whatever I have to do,” he expressed.

“Luckily, I was in a good position to get some blocks and it worked out that way.”

And he owes a lot to his driver Richard, who got him to the venue just in time.

“It was a good experience though, thank you to the cyclist, I think his name is Richard or something like that, he’s a lifesaver.

“I tipped him very handsomely. It was about a hundred but I’m sure I paid with whatever was in my pocket because I was very grateful,” he quipped.

Still, he knows that he also owes a lot to his team. He plans on making it up by treating everyone to lunch during their next practice.

Lesson learned for Kelly.

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