NORMAN Black wants Talk ‘N Text to be merciless on the defensive end when it takes on eight-seeded Barangay Ginebra in their PBA Commissioner’s Cup quarterfinal duel on Tuesday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
A nine-game sweep of the single round eliminations earned for Talk `N Text the no. 1 seeding and a twice-to-beat advantage in the playoffs against the Kings beginning at 8 p.m..
A welcome news for the Tropang Texters is the return of import Richard Howell, who missed the team’s final game in the eliminations owing to a bruised right shoulder.
But Black said the do-it-all import is ready to play in the quarterfinals after the team went on an 11-day break.
The 6-foot-8 Howell averaged 20.5 points and 19.2 rebounds this conference.
Talk ‘N Text scored a 94-87 victory over Ginebra last March 23, although the Kings still had original import Leon Rodgers at the time.
The Kings had since changed import twice, with latest reinforcement Gabe Freeman suiting up in his first game for Ginebra last Sunday in a 105-101 overtime loss to Rain or Shine.
With the athletic Freeman now on board for Ginebra, Black said Talk `N Text’s immediate task is to control the boards and be tenacious on defense.
“Playing Ginebra is always tough because they are tall and talented, and they have the crowd support,” Black said. “You add in the intensity of Freeman and they will be a difficult lot. For us, defense will be the key. We will have to rebound well defensively and try to limit their (Kings) fastbreaks.”
Ginebra only has the benefit of a one-day break before plunging back into action.
Freeman admitted the Kings’ backs may be against the wall, but they won’t go down without a fight against the highly-favored and unbeaten Tropang Texters.
“We just wanna come out and play, just do what we need to do collectively. The guys (Ginebra local players) have been preparing for the past week, it’s all good and we’re getting ready for Talk ‘N Text,” said Freeman, who still scored 29 points and grabbed 17 rebounds in a losing effort against Rain or Shine despite being out of active competition since November last year.
The former Best Import explained he would just have to pace himself against Talk ‘N Text, aware that he only scored six points in the entire second half against Rain or Shine.
“You know what, we slowed down a little bit (against Rain or Shine). We didn’t play like the first quarter,” he stressed. “I couldn’t make all my shots the way I did, but had to pace myself, so I can make the whole game. I didn’t know we’re going to overtime, though from what we did and how we played, I’m oversatisfied because we played hard.”