TALK ‘N Text continued its win streak behind the game-long brilliance of Ranidel de Ocampo and Jimmy Alapag, beating Rain or Shine, 94-87, on Wednesday night to grab a commanding 2-0 lead in their PBA Commissioner’s Cup semifinal series at the Cuneta Astrodome.
The 6-foot-5 De Ocampo stepped up in the absence of foul-plagued import Richard Howell, draining nine of his team-high 20 points in the last quarter while exploiting several mismatches and help the Texters extend their conference-long unbeaten run to 12 games.
Up 2-0 in the best-of-five series, the Tropang Texters are now one win away from putting away a Rain or Shine side that lost import import Wayne Chism in the second quarter due to a knee injury suffered in a bad fall.
As it is, the Painters were already without JR Quinahan, Chris Tiu and Jervy Cruz, who suffered an MCL (medial collateral ligament) sprain on his right knee during practice on Tuesday.
“It’s not gonna be easy game playing against them (Elasto Painters), but they had a lot of heart and they were still fighting,” Talk ‘N Text coach Norman Black said.
What was supposed to be an easy game against an injury-plagued Rain or Shine turned into a grind for Talk 'N Text as Howell inexplicably went on a fouling binge and ended up playing just 25 minutes.
Rain or Shine kept the game close until Alapag set up De Ocampo and Kelly Williams for baskets that enabled Talk 'N Text to make the decisive breakaway in the endgame.
“Yes, there’s always pressure whether it’s a winning streak or losing streak, though we haven’t talked about the (12-game win) streak,” said Black, who is one win away from returning to the finals for the first time since winning the Philippine Cup last season.
“We knew the goal in mind which is to make it to the championship (series), and that’s what we trying to accomplish right now.”
Aside from de Ocampo, four other Talk ‘N Text players scored in double figures, with Jason Castro adding 19, Williams 14 points and 13 rebounds, Alapag 14 and Howell chipping in 12 and 11 boards.
Beau Belga led the Elasto Painters with 16 points and 12 rebounds but fellow Rain or Shine standouts Jeff Chan and Paul Lee just couldn't get untracked.
Chan scored just two points, going 1-of-9 from the field, while Lee was a non-factor in the endgame. He finished with 10 points.
Talk 'N Text 94 - De Ocampo 20, Castro 19, Williams 14, Alapag 14, Howell 12, Fonacier 7, Carey 4, Seigle 2, Canaleta 2, Aban 0, Reyes Jai 0, Reyes Ryan 0, Baclao 0.
Rain or Shine 87 - Belga 16, Arana 14, Almazan 12, Chism 10, Tang 10, Lee 10, Norwood 5, Rodriguez 4, Chan 2, Nuyles 2, Ibanes 2.
Quarterscores: 21-17, 43-38, 65-64, 94-87