THE season's hottest teams – Talk ‘N Text and Alaska - collide as the PBA Philippine Cup resumes on Friday night at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Aces take on the Tropang Texters, the lone unbeaten team in the season-opening tournament with their 6-0 record, in the 7:30 p.m. main game - the first of three tough games which Alaska coach Luigi Trillo said will show how far his team has improved this season.
After the Texters, the Aces, on a roll with four straight wins and a 4-2 record, face Rain or Shine and San Mig Coffee in their next two games.
“It’s gonna be an interesting three-game stretch for our team,” Trillo said after the team’s morning practice on All Saint’s Day at the Hoops Center in Mandaluyong City.
The Tropang Texters are now growing more comfortable playing under new coach Norman Black’s system. And defense has been Talk ‘N Text’s trump card this season under Black.
After giving up 106 points during the team’s first two victories against Meralco and Globaport, Talk ‘N Text dramatically improved its defense, holding its opponents to just 79.25 points over the next four games while averaging 85 points on offense.
And though Black won’t have gunner Jayson Castro around in the game against Alaska due to a hand injury, the Tropang Texters have a bevy of scorers they can rely on any time led by Larry Fonacier, Ryan Reyes, Ranidel de Ocampo, and Kelly Williams.
Trillo said he is aware of Talk ‘N Text’s vast array of scoring options.
“People don’t realize that coach Norman is a defensive coach. He gets a lot of transition points because of good defense,” noted Trillo. “Talk ‘N Text used to be a drive and kick team with (then coach) Chot (Reyes), but now they are even harder to guard because they run their set, they run their flex, single high, post up guys but they flow in their drive and kick after.”
The Alaska mentor said the experience Talk ‘N Text has gained over the last two seasons easily make the Manny V. Pangilinan-owned ball club such a tough team to beat.
“These guys know how to get it done. They are the most successful team at least for the past year I think,” he added.
But Alaska has seen some dramatic improvement as well on its own end.
After giving up 98 points in its first two games, which both ended up in embarrassing defeats, the Aces improved on their defense in their last four outings, limiting their opponents to just 80.5 points.
“Certainly, we’re happy with the things we’re doing well. But we still have a lot to work on,” said the 37-year-old Alaska mentor.
In the 5:15 p.m. curtain raiser, Petron Blaze gun for its first winning streak under rookie coach Olsen Racela, who just turned 42 on All Saint’s Day as it tangles with the slumping Air21 side.
A week after management announced that team consultant Rajko Toroman has been relieved of his post with the Petron squad, Racela now works to integrate his own coaching style, which gives his athletic players the leeway to push the ball when the opportunity arises.
“Sinabi ko sa kanila (Petron players), I’m going to give you freedom especially on transition, but they have to make smart moves. Kasi nasanay sila sa halfcourt set. But if they start recognizing when to attack and then pull back out, we’ll be a more dangerous team,” said Racela.