TALK 'N Text had seen San Mig move on the brink of reaching the finals and gaining a shot at a historic grand slam.
Now TnT may beat the Mixers to rewriting history.
The Texters survived a meltdown in the final seconds of regulation of Game Four with a brave stand in the extra period to pull off a dramatic 84-81 win over San Mig that sent their PBA Governors Cup semifinal series to a deciding game.
Import Paul Harris turned from goat to hero in a span of seven minutes, making the decisive hits in overtime that kept San Mig at bay and saved the Texters from a collapse reminiscent of their overtime loss in Game One.
By winning their second straight game, the flagship franchise of the PLDT group leveled the best-of-five series at 2-2 and moved on the verge of becoming just the fourth team in history to win a playoff series from 0-2 down.
“We did what we have to do, which is to fight another day,” said Talk ‘N Text coach Norman Black. “Now it all comes down to Friday.”
Ironically, it was also Harris who almost cost the Texters the game late in regulation, when he made a passing error that led to a Marqus Blakely basket and missed a three-point try that enabled San Mig to stay within 72-74.
Worse, Harris also allowed San Mig star James Yap to cut loose with a one-handed running jumper that tied the score at 74-all at the buzzer, even if Talk ‘N Text had one foul to give.
Talk ‘N Text sped off to an 81-76 lead during the first two-and-a-half minutes of the extra session, highlighted by a coast-to-coast fastbreak layup by Harris off Yap’s miss.
The Texters held on this time, heaving a sigh of relief when Joe Devance’s jumper missed the mark at the buzzer.
Harris went on to win Best Player of the Game honors.
Now San Mig’s bid to complete just the fifth grand slam in the league’s 39 years – which looked on track after the team took a 2-0 lead - is suddenly in jeopardy.
“More than anything else, our guys gutted it out today. Our defense was pretty sound mixing it at man and zone, while we also cut down on their inside game,” said Black.
Only three teams have managed to come back from a 0-2 hole - Crispa during the 1975 Third Conference Finals when it turned back bitter rival Toyota; Purefoods, which defeated Alaska, back when current San Mig coach Tim Cone was still handling the team in the 1990 Third Conference championship round, as well as Barangay Ginebra, which, ironically outlasted Talk ‘N Text during the 2010 Philippine Cup quarterfinals.
The Mixers’ loss also has a lot to do with their failure to do well from the foul line after going just 3-o-12 for a horrible 25 percent clip.
In contrast, Talk ‘N Text proved steadier from the free throw line with its 15-of-20 shooting clip.
“Right now, it’s just all about who has something left in the tank come Friday. I just give my players credit for not getting down,” added Black.
Harris led the Texters with 22 points and 12 rebounds, while Jason Castro and resurgent Larry Fonacier added 11 points apiece.
Talk ‘N Text 84 - Harris 22, Castro 11, Fonacier 11, De Ocampo 9, Seigle 7, Alapag 6, Williams 5, Espiritu 5, Reyes Rob 3, Aban 3, Reyes Ryan 2, Reyes Jai 0, Baclao 0, Carey 0, Canaleta 0.
San Mig 81 - Yap 23, Blakely 12, Pingris 12, Simon 12, Barroca 11, Devance 9, Maliksi 2, Sangalang 0, Mallari 0.
Quarterscores: 22-19, 33-37, 55-56, 74-74, 84-81