CHANTS of 'three more (wins) to go' rang out inside the Talk 'N Text dugout, shortly after a 99-91 victory over Rain or Shine saw the team book its place in the PBA Commissioner's Cup Finals.
Perhaps more impressively, the win kept the flagship franchise of the MVP group unbeaten 13 games into the campaign and put the Tropang Texters in line for the first perfect season in pro league history.
Much as coach Norman Black wants to play down the team's 13-game win streak, there is no denying that going unbeaten in a course of a season would be very special - even for a multi-titled team like Talk 'N Text, or a coach like Black that has won a grand slam with San Miguel Beer in 1989.
The closest to achieving a perfect season was the fabled Crispa Redmanizers, who ran off 19 successive wins during the 1980 All-Filipino Conference before losing in Game Three of the Finals to arch-rival Toyota.
That Crispa team eventually finished the conference at 20-1.
No wonder Rain or Shine coach Yeng Guiao, who is rarely profuse with praise for opponents, said this Talk 'N Text team reminds him of that Crispa team that almost went through a conference unbeaten.
“They are in rhythm, their bench is really deep, they do not have to be burned out because they have a deep rotation,” said Guiao, whose team, in contrast, was ravaged by injuries to key players JR Quinahan, Jervy Cruz and Chris Tiu, along with import Wayne Chism, who played through an MCL tear on his left knee.
As it is, Talk 'N Text also has a shot at the longest winning streak in the league's 39 years at 21 which Crispa also achieved over two conferences during its grand slam season in 1983 under Tommy Manotoc.
Can Talk 'N Text do it?
Paul Lee, who played limited minutes in Game Three owing to a bruised heel, said the Texters have a shot at it with the form and hunger they have been showing in the midseason conference.
In fact, Lee said this Talk 'N Text team is much like the TnT team he first saw back when he was a rookie in the league in 2011-2012 which dominated the league under now national coach Chot Reyes.
“The way na maglaro sila (Texters), parang wala na akong masabi. Healthy sila lahat eh, tapos lahat parang gutom na gutom,” said Lee. “Parang iyan ang Talk ‘N Text na nakita ko nung rookie pa lang ako. So bumalik lang siguro sila.”
Guiao even compared Talk 'N Text's veteran-laden lineup to the San Antonio Spurs, who have prolonged the careers of their Big Three of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili by surrounding them with young, capable players.
“I think the investment here is the time they’ve been together,” Guiao pointed out.
“Of course, people might say nagkaka-edad na sila but it’s like the San Antonio Spurs team na nagka-edad. But because of the guys coming in to be the next generation, they’re able to preserve yung old legs and make use of the new ones. So they’re able to strike that balance.”
Asked if the Texters are good enough to complete a perfect season, Guiao didn't give a straight answer but said the team has a good shot at a championship.