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:
|TIEBREAKER TIMES ROUNDTABLE|
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.
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