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Barangay Ginebra San Miguel is forewarned to expect a fiery comeback from Talk ‘N’ Text in Game 2 of their PBA Commissioner’s Cup best-of-five semifinal series at the Smart Araneta Coliseum tonight. Surely, Tropa coach Norman Black won’t take last Friday’s 104-81 loss to Ginebra sitting down. There will be major adjustments, new strategies and possibly, bold moves to get the Texters back on track.
This conference, Talk ‘N’ Text has bounced back from two blowout defeats in stirring fashion. That’s why Ginebra is bracing for stormy weather tonight. Last March 1, the Tropa was crushed by Alaska, 92-69 – the same margin of difference in Game 1 against Ginebra. A week later, the Texters beat Barako Bull, 101-98. Then, there was the Tropa’s 116-85 setback to Rain Or Shine last March 24. The Texters recoiled to put up a strong fight against San Mig Coffee in their next outing and lost by a single point. So it’s more than likely that Talk ‘N’ Text will be reloaded, reoiled and retooled for a big comeback in Game 2.
What bogged down in the Texters’ battle plan last Friday was their offense. The stats show that in seven of the Tropa’s nine wins so far this conference, the team shot more than 90 points. Before Friday’s encounter, Talk ‘N’ Text was No. 1 in offense, free throw percentage and three-point percentage in the playoffs. The Texters rely a lot on easy baskets off transition, second chance opportunities, kick-outs from penetrations and recovery out of scrambles. If they don’t get easy baskets, it’s a struggle. In Game 1 against Ginebra, the Texters just couldn’t find a rhythm offensively and shot a lowly .354 from the field, a shocking .056 from three-point distance on 1-of-18.
Ginebra imposed itself aggressively on defense right from the onset and limited Talk ‘N’ Text to 15 first quarter points on a .286 field goal percentage. Ginebra scored seven turnover points to none for the Tropa. The key to Ginebra’s defense was not allowing Jimmy Alapag and Jayson Castro to facilitate. Both guards were without a single assist in the first 12 minutes. Ginebra obstructed the passing lanes and forced the Tropa to play one-on-one with Jerome Jordan. It’s easier to defend Jordan, who’s predictable, than the Tropa guards who are extremely creative and quick. Jordan got his touches but could only hit 1-of-5 from the floor, courtesy of Vernon Macklin’s sticky defense. On the other end of the floor, Ginebra could hardly do anything wrong, shooting .619 from the field, including 4-of-6 triples.
The pattern persisted the rest of the way as Talk ‘N’ Text bled for its points. Ginebra stayed aggressive until the last buzzer, making sure the Texters wouldn’t be able to carry over any kind of momentum to Game 2.
Macklin played like a man on a mission, erasing the nightmarish memory of his sub-par performance in Ginebra’s 100-86 loss to Talk ‘N’ Text last April 14. That was when Jordan outdueled Macklin, 23 points to 12 and 17 rebounds to nine. This time, Macklin wouldn’t be denied his revenge as he outscored Jordan, 25 points in 35 minutes to 21 points in 43. Macklin worked his way around Jordan’s incredible 90-inch wingspan to score on reverse layups, follow-up dunks and alley-oops. He never took an outside shot – that’s not in his repertoire – which explains his lofty field goal percentage of .611.
The import match-up is intriguing. Jordan, 26, is 7-foot tall and was the Milwaukee Bucks’ second round pick in the 2010 NBA draft. Macklin, 26, is 6-10 and was Detroit’s second round choice in 2011. Jordan is four days older than Macklin. They both played in the 2011-12 NBA season, Macklin in 23 games with the Pistons and Jordan in 21 with the New York Knicks. Basketball-Reference.com reported that Macklin and Jordan each received $473,604 in salaries during the 2011-12 NBA campaign.
Jordan never played in the NCAA Tournament with the University of Tulsa while Macklin went to the Final Four with Georgetown and the Elite Eight with the University of Florida. Jordan has extensive overseas experience with the Jamaica national team and as an import in Serbia and Slovenia. Macklin’s only overseas stint was as an import in Turkey for five games. Jordan has a better touch from the line, hitting .695 with Talk ‘N’ Text compared to Macklin’s .463 with Ginebra.
In Game 2, Alapag has to display his leadership in reorganizing and stabilizing the Texters’ offense. He shot only three points in the series opener and will need to contribute a lot more to rev up the Tropa’s engines. Larry Fonacier has turned gun-shy with only one double-figure scoring in his last eight games but he’s got to keep trying. He won’t break out of his slump alone, he’ll need screens from teammates to find open looks.
Ranidel de Ocampo has filled in at No. 4 admirably since Kelly Williams’ departure and he’s still deadly at No. 3 but he, too, can’t just rely on his individuality to torch the scoreboard. Ali Peek’s absence in Game 1 was a damper because Black could’ve used his wide body to box out Macklin and his medium-range offense to draw out Ginebra’s bigs. Ryan Reyes and Jared Dillinger must also make their presence felt on both ends if the Tropa hopes to even up matters in Game 2.
Black’s challenge is to keep Ginebra’s defense at bay. Ginebra coach Alfrancis Chua likes to unleash the mid-court trap to stall the Texters’ execution with the power forward, either Rudy Hatfield or Yousef Taha, springing out to double. That should be anticipated. Additionally, the Tropa’s gunners must be on target to spread the floor and make it easier for the bigs to operate inside.
Talk ‘N’ Text can’t afford to fall into a 0-2 hole tonight. In PBA history, the team that wins the opener in a best-of-five series ends up clinching at a rate of 66 percent. The odds get even higher with a 2-0 edge so for the Texters, it’s almost a must-win situation in Game 2.
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