PBA Title Series On Monday
By WAYLON GALVEZ
Game Monday (Smart-Araneta Coliseum)
6:45 p.m. – Talk ’N Text vs B-Meg (Game 1)
MANILA, Philippines — After going through two tough series in the playoffs, B-Meg coach Tim Cone believes his team is all primed up for the ultimate test – a duel with Talk ’N Text.
In what should be a blockbuster fight between ball clubs belonging to rival companies, B-Meg and defending champion TNT start their best-of-seven PBA Commissioner’s Cup Finals today at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
This title duel has the trappings of a Hollywood movie, thus making the TNT-B-Meg showdown doubly interesting.
Cone is in the finals for the 24th time, but this will be his first since he took over the B-Meg coaching chores.
With a team loaded of stars and role players, Cone is confident of steering the proud team to its 9th championship.
But what motivates Cone the most in beating TNT’s Chot Reyes is the opportunity of winning his 14th career PBA title.
According to Cone, their three-game quarterfinal series with Meralco – where B-Meg lost Game 1 – as well as the five-game showdown versus Barangay Ginebra, which the Llamados closed out with a win in Game 4 (108-84), toughened them up as a team.
“We know we’re still growing as a team, but the two series we had really helped us out,” said Cone, whose first conference with B-Meg ended in disappointment after they were eliminated by Powerade in the quarterfinals despite a twice-to-beat advantage.
Talk ’N Text, on the other hand, clinched a fifth straight finals berth and 13th overall following a 101-90 victory over Barako Bull in their do-or-die Game 5 semifinal playoff.
Like B-Meg, TNT is fully armed as the Tropang Texters target to win their fifth PBA title. They ruled three of the last four conferences.
Their bid for a Grand Slam was spoiled by Petron – which is a sister team of B-Meg.
Since he’s aware of what Reyes can do to his TNT team, Cone sees a close call.
In fact, their friendship that dates back in the 90s will have to take a backseat for the time being.
Reyes was a former assistant of Cone at Alaska.
Though he considers Cone as a mentor, Reyes leads their finals head-to-head duel, 3-2. The last was during the Philippine Cup in 2009 when TNT downed Alaska (Cone’s former team) in seven grueling games.
To win the championship this time, Cone knows it’s important for them to impose their will, and that is to dictate the series with their defense. B-Meg is currently the No. 1 defensive team, holding opponents to just 87.06 points per game.
“No doubt we’re excited about Game 1,” said Cone.
“We just have to be careful not to let our enthusiasm get in the way of our disciplined approach to challenging TNT. As I tell my players, if it was only about playing hard, even at 54… I’d be a superstar because no one would play harder than me.”
“But it’s going to take more than just playing hard to beat TNT. We’ll need to be smart and disciplined as well,” Cone added.
While defense will be the key for B-Meg, Cone’s will also rely on his ‘triangle’ offense with players expected to step up such as Best Import top candidate Denzel Bowles (21.8 points, 12.3 rebounds), former two-time MVP James Yap, PJ Simon, JC Intal, Josh Urbiztondo, Joe Devance, Marc Pingris and Rafi Reavis.
TNT, on the other hand, will try to impose their running game as the Texters ranked No. 2 in scoring this conference with 100 per game.
What concerns Reyes is the health of his players, particularly Ali Peek (broken right hand) and Harvey Carey (knee injury), saying: “We’re in the process for storing our energy for a long and tough final series with B-Meg.”
Leading TNT is import Donnell Harvey (19.5 points, 16.7 rebounds), reigning MVP Jimmy Alapag, Jayson Castro, Kelly Williams, Ranidel de Ocampo, Ryan Reyes, Jared Dillinger and Larry Fonacier.
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