TALK N TEXT, one of the two remaining unbeaten squads in the PBA Philippine Cup, tries to keep the momentum going when it faces unpredictable Air21 on Wednesday night as the league goes to the MOA Arena in Pasay City for the first time this season.
The Tropang Texters (2-0) lock horn with the Express (1-2) in the 7:30 p.m. main game with Norman Black coaching his first full game since leading Ateneo to a fifth successive UAAP championship. Ironically, the man calling the shots on the other end of the court is former La Salle coach Franz Pumaren.
Black wasn’t supposed to coach Talk ‘N Text during its match against newcomer Globalport on Friday, handing the reins to chief assistant Nash Racela.
But the multi-titled coach was forced to take charge for the Texters when the Batang Pier razed a once-imposing 16-point second half lead to take a three-point lead going into the final four minutes.
“I guess the adrenaline and the juices started to flow so at the end, I tried to take control more,” said Black.
Against Air21, Black admitted things won’t be easy.
For one, even though he had been handling the team for about a month since inheriting the Tropang Texters from coach Chot Reyes, Black admitted missing a lot of team practices due to his Ateneo coaching duties.
But as they go up against a young but hungry Express five, Black said they will continue to execute the new system he tried to implement since he took over — a combination of the dribble-drive offense and set plays.
The dribble-drive offense is built on quickness and penetration but its success is determined by the ability to finish with an outside shot from a kick-out or a layup from a drop pass or a move to the basket.
Under Reyes, the Tropang Texters have had success in recent years, winning two straight Philippine Cup championships (the 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 seasons), while making it to the PBA Finals five times in the last six conferences.
“We want to combine set plays and dribble-drive right now. But teaching it is a bit difficult. Defensively, we should be a lot better on the court because that’s what I have been doing during coach Chot’s (Reyes’) time. But we will be running smoothly already in about three or four weeks. We’re just having some problems executing under a new system,” explained Black, author of the PBA’s third grand slam in 1989 with San Miguel Beer.
Meantime, Meralco shoots for its third straight win when it goes up against winless Globalport in the 5:15 p.m. game.
While the Batang Pier are still without last season’s scoring leader Gary David who is still nursing a swollen knee, an easy victory won’t come easy for the Bolts.
Globalport pushed Talk N Text to the edge before losing its third straight in as many games this conference, 108-104.
The Batang Pier also managed to work well even without the high-scoring David after getting big scoring nights from two-time PBA MVP Willie Miller, rookie Vic Manuel, and 6’7” center Rabeh Al-Hussaini.
The Bolts, however, have an energy player in rookie Fil-Am Cliff Hodge, who has played big in the team’s back-to-back wins, averaging 16.5 points, 8.5 rebounds, 3.0 blocks, and 1.5 steals.