Talk 'N Text, a team seeking a third consecutive all-Filipino title, proved to have better composure in the endgame as it took Game 1 with a 87-81 victory over Rain or Shine in the PBA Philippine Cup finals last night at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Just when the Elasto Painters were threatening to turn things around late in the fourth period when they came within just three points, 76-79, the Tropang Texters found ways to deliver the big shots when it mattered most.
And it was Larry Fonacier and Jayson Castro who came through for the defending champions in the final three minutes, hitting a booming three and a driving layup, respectively, to douse cold water on Rain or Shine's fuming comeback and take the opening game of the best-of-seven title series.
Game 2 is set tomorrow at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City with Talk N' Text, hoping to become only the second team (after Crispa, which actually won four straight) to win three consecutive all-Filipino titles, gunning for a 2-0 series lead.
"We have to win Game 2 'coz we know they can bounce back. We're playing Rain or Shine, they have a great coach they have great players," coach Norman Black said.
Fonacier's three gave the Tropang Texters an 82-76 lead with 2:51 left. The shot gave their yellow-wearing fans a breather after the Painters made a huge threat.
Jeff Chan cut Talk 'N Text's lead to four points with a jumper but his team failed to capitalize on a missed jump shot by Jared Dillinger when Paul Lee missed a fast break lay-up.
And TNT made the Painters pay for it in the next play as the 5-foot-10 Castro delivered the dagger when he nailed a tough lay-up against the taller defender in 6-foot-4 Jervy Cruz for an 84-78 lead with 1:51 tom play. Castro finished with 16 points, the same total points of Ranidel de Ocampo.
More than the big shots by made by Fonacier and Castro in the end, the team's overall defense also played a key role in preventing the Elasto Painters from completing their comeback.
"I was very happy with the way we played defense," said Black.
Cruz led Rain or Shine with 13 points, while Lee added 11 points and Chan finished with 10.
The physicality and tough plays of both teams was evident during the game when Flagrant Foul Penalty 1 was called against Bam-Bam Gamalinda of Talk 'N Text and Ronnie Matias of Rain or Shine on separate occasions.
Gamalinda was whistled with F1 when he hacked a driving Chan above the shoulder with 2.1 seconds left in the second quarter. Matias, on the other hand, was assessed with his F1 when he hit in the head Dillinger while they battle for loose ball.
After Larry Rodriguez converted a jumper for the first basket of the series opener, Rain or Shine missed 10 of its next 11 attempts from the field and turned the ball over three times that allowed the Texters to grab a 24-15 lead after opening quarter.
The Texters' lead even ballooned to 18 points, 33-15, as they opened a 9-0 run to start the second period, before Rain or Shine made its first basket in the quarter with a lay-up from Rodriguez with eight minutes to play.
Meanwhile, Rain or Shine's reinforcement for next month's Commissioner's Cup, 7-foot-3 Croatian Bruno Sundov, is expected to arrive Sunday. He will be the tallest import not only next conference but in the history of the PBA.
Sundov is a former draft pick of the Dallas Mavericks in 1998 and played in the NBA for five seasons, including stints with the Indiana Pacers (2000-02), the Boston Celtics (2002-03), the Cleveland Cavaliers (2003-04) and the New York Knicks (2004-05), averaging 1.7 points and 1 rebound.
Talk 'N Text, on the other hand, is eyeing Smart-Gilas naturalized player Marcus Douthit, although it depends whether or not he will get clearance from the PBA Commissioner's Office and release papers from Air21, where he played last season.