SAN Mig and Talk 'N Text clash for the first time since their PBA Commissioner's Cup Finals showdown on Friday night as they jockey for position ahead of the playoffs.
San Mig and Talk 'N Text are tied with Ginebra at the top of the standings in the Governors Cup eliminations on 5-2 (win-loss) cards going to the 8 p.m. match at the Mall of Asia Arena, both in a good position to go for a Top 4 place and a twice-to-beat edge in the quarterfinals.
No wonder TnT coach Norman Black is more concerned with enhancing the Texters' playoff position than avenging the Texters' 1-3 defeat to San Mig in the last Commissioner's Cup Finals.
To do that, Black said the Texters will have to match - if not surpass - the energy of the Mixers who, though battered after three successive trips to the Finals, have been reinvigorated by the return of the tireless Marqus Blakely.
“It's a battle for first place and the twice-to-beat advantage so it will be intense,” said Black, whose team is coming off a shock loss to Barako Bull just last Tuesday.
“Energy is the name of the game when you play San Mig so we will have to surpass their energy level to be able to get a win,” he added.
Blakely has been a bundle of energy for the Mixers, carrying the load while Tim Cone manages the minutes of banged-up local stars like Marc Pingris, James Yap, and PJ Simon.
That was none more apparent than in San Mig's overtime win over Air21 on Monday, when Blakely did so much of the work Cone couldn't help but criticize his team for its overdependence on the import.
But if San Mig's local gunners start clicking on Friday, Black knows his team will have its hands full.
“They (Mixers) have so many weapons that I will need all of my players to be on top of their game for us to get a share of first place,” said the multi-titled Talk ‘N Text coach.
Although San Mig has shown no signs of slowing down as it goes for a rare grand slam, Cone feels the team has yet to play to its full potential in the season-ending tournament.
“We feel we’re not where we need to be because we’re not playing the same defense we’ve been playing (in the previous conferences) and we’re kind of out of whack a little bit,” said Cone.
But with a 5-2 card, the good news for Cone is that San Mig will likely not have to go through the same perilous path as the last Commissioner's Cup where the team had to work its way out of the lower bracket in the playoffs.
“You don’t want to put yourself in an almost impossible situation to beat a top team like Talk ‘N Text or San Miguel or Ginebra in the playoffs with a twice-to-beat disadavantage, so getting to that Top Four is important,” he said.