TALK ‘N Text and Air21 slug it out for the early solo spot when they collide in the main game of the PBA Commissioner’s Cup on Saturday at the Astrodome.
The two teams clash at 5:45 p.m.
The Tropang Texters opened the import-spiced conference with an 85-72 demolition of defending champion Alaska Aces on Wednesday behind import Richard Howell’s impressive double-double of 15 points and 30 rebounds.
On the other hand, Air21 leaned on Ivorian import Herve Lamizana’s strong second half showing to turn back Globalport, 83-78, and spoil the coaching debut of Pido Jarencio.
The 6-foot-9 Lamizana fired 20 of his 22 points in the second half to go along with 10 rebounds and five blocks in sparking the Express’ strong conference start.
Talk ‘N Text coach Norman Black said Howell is a perfect fit for the Tropang Texters, who are trying to regain the defensive mentality that made them last season’s Philippine Cup champion.
“For us (our goal is) to really concentrate on how to become a better defensive team in the league,” said Black, whose team had a roller-coaster ride during the All-Filipino conference before losing to San Mig Super Coffee in the quarterfinals.
Veteran playmaker Jimmy Alapag said the team’s early quarterfinal exit last conference has been a blessing in disguise since the Tropang Texters were able to prepare early as they try to redeem themselves in the mid-season tournament.
“Last conference was tough. I’m the captain. I understand and has played in the PBA long enough so I have certain expectations for myself and coach Norman has certain expectations also,” said Alapag, who fired away 11 points, grabbed four rebounds, and dished off six assists while serving as the team’s defensive catalyst in pulling off that 13-point victory over the Aces.
“I felt I played way below those expectations so I thought of maybe reinventing myself this conference, try to get back to condition, and maybe, it’s a blessing in disguise to get eliminated early because were able to prepare,” he added.
On the other hand, Air21 coach Franz Pumaren is hopeful Lamizana could repeat his strong second half performance against an expected tough Talk ‘N Text side.
“I don’t think he’s (Lamizana) in tip-top shape, but we saw a glimpse of what he can do because he plays multiple positions,” noted Pumaren, who’ll have locals Joseph Yeo, Asi Taulava, and MacMac Cardona to contribute offensively.