THE chess match for the marquee Sunday showdown between Barangay Ginebra and Talk 'N Text has begun.
Norman Black made the first move on the eve of the match, hatching a plan to stop Ginebra's towering pair of Greg Slaughter and Japeth Aguilar who figures to be a big problem for Talk 'N Text's undersized frontcourt.
Black, however, said the key to stopping the tallest frontline in the league is by cutting the pipeline from guards LA Tenorio and Mark Caguioa who, he said, make things happen for Ginebra's big men.
“Because of Ginebra's size, holding our own on the boards and limiting their post scoring are major concerns,” said Black, whose frontline got even shorter when the injured Ali Peek was relegated to the reserve list to make room for new acquisition Danny Seigle.
“But for me, the main key will be our ability to slow down LA (Tenorio) and Mark (Caguioa). They are not only scoring but they are also the main ones feeding the bigs the ball,” he added.
If there's a coach in the league who knows these players, it should be Black who has coached Slaughter, Aguilar, and Tenorio during his glorious collegiate career with Ateneo.
Slaughter, in fact, was the anchor of the Blue Eagles team that won the last two of five UAAP titles for Black.
However, Tenorio, whose association with Black continued in the Gilas Pilipinas national team program, is not about to swallow his former coach's statement hook, line, and sinker.
“Pwedeng totoo yan, pwedeng hindi nila gawin. Tactics yan eh," said Tenorio. "Pero I think, malabong sa amin lang ni Mark sila mag-focus. Kilala ko ang TNT. They will focus on the team as a whole.”
“Ready naman kami sa kung ano gagawin nila. Merun naman kaming game plan for that. Game adjustment yan eh. Hindi pa naman naming sure kung gagawin nila. Dun na lang kami mag-aadjust,” he added.
Tenorio admitted it will help Talk 'N Text's cause if Black tears a page off the playbook of sister team Meralco, which dealt Ginebra its first loss of the season, 87-100, on Tuesday by clogging the middle and holding Slaughter down to seven points and six boards.
Then again, the former Ateneo star said Ginebra will be ready this time.
“Tingin ko makakatulong sa kanila (TNT) yun kung re-reviewhin nila yung game namin against Meralco. Kasi nakita ang butas namin eh. Pero palagay ko natuto naman kami run,” Tenorio said.
“Siguro 'yun ang isa sa lowest games talaga namin. At sana nga 'yun na lang 'yun. Kasi off night namin 'yun. Tapos yung frustration namin nahawa pati sa opensa at depensa namin,” the Ginebra guard added.
But Black claimed they have their own strategy to hopefully cut Ginebra down to size.
“We are a different team, and it’s a different game,” said Black.