DEFENDING champion Talk `N Text aims for the automatic top spot and a twice-to-beat incentive at the expense of Petron when the two powerhouse teams collide on Wednesday in the PBA Philippine Cup at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
The Tropang Texters currently sit atop the standings with a 10-2 (win-loss) slate as opposed to the even 6-6 slate of the sixth-placed Boosters.
Talk ‘N Text coach Norman Black voiced out his displeasure over how his team played against Air21, which saw the two-time All-Filipino champions go through anxious moments before pulling off a hard-earned 100-94 decision behind Jimmy Alapag’s late-game heroics.
The upside, according to Black, was the resurgence of Alapag, who initially appeared to have a hard time adjusting to his system since he took over the coaching job left by Chot Reyes.
“He has really embraced his role in this team. And he made some clutch shots and brought some energy on the court,” Black said, referring to his prized pint-sized point guard, who finished with 18 points, six assists, and two rebounds against the Express Sunday.
But the road to the No. 1 spot is not going to be entirely smooth the Tropang Texters.
The Boosters have been on a winning streak of late, thrashing Rain or Shine (96-86), Globalport (110-81), and Barako Bull (93-83) one after the other.
Petron coach Olsen Racela has seen a sharp improvement defensively on his team. The Boosters had limited the opposition to just 83 points in their last three outings compared to the staggering 97 points they gave up during a three-game losing stretch.
Talk ‘N Text routed Petron, 92-82 during their initial clash on November 7 behind Larry Fonacier’s red-hot shooting in the second half. The former Ateneo gunner fired two big triples in a searing fourth-quarter assault on the way to a game-high 21 points, on top of six rebounds and four assists.
But if you ask Black, all that will surely change on Wednesday against a Petron squad determined to continue its rise in the standings for a better position in the quarterfinal playoffs.
Rookie center June Mar Fajardo will be playing his third game back for Petron since undergoing surgery a month ago to reduce the swelling on his scrotum.
The University of Cebu standout has been averaging nine points and 6.5 rebounds since his return, though his numbers are expected to go up once he regains his form.