Monday, January 7, 2013

2012 PBA Philippine Cup Semifinals Roundup and Finals Preview



Rain or Shine and Talk N Text finished their respective semifinal series in six games, with ROS dumping San Mig Coffee last Thursday and TNT dropping the bomb on Alaska a day later.

Smart-Gilas 2.0 starting shooting guard Jeff Chan outplayed former National Team player James Yap anew, scoring 27 points on the strength of three treys while also grabbing 7 rebounds and dishing out 3 assists. Yap, meanwhile, wound up with only 6 points as he missed all but 2 of his 15 field goal attempts.

Paul Lee backstopped Chan’s shooting with 15 points of his own, while the surprisingly solid Jervy Cruz combined with old reliables Gabe Norwood and Beau Belga to shore up the frontline. Cruz, Norwood, and Belga had a combined output of 31 points and 31 rebounds as the Painters outmuscled the Mixers on the boards, 62-46. PJ Simon and Marc Pingris continued to play splendidly for SMC with 29 and 15 points respectively. Pingris also grabbed 11 rebounds in the losing effort.

TNT relied on five guys scoring in double-digits as the Texters finished off the upstart Aces in Game 6. Jayson Castro, Jimmy Alapag, Jared Dillinger, Kelly Williams, and Ranidel De Ocampo all broke the 10-point barrier to typify the depth of TNT. Despite both Calvin Abueva and Sonny Thoss putting double-double performances for Alaska, the Texters were still able to punch through and book a ticket to defend the Philippine Cup they've won for two years running.

Kelly Williams slams one home as the TNT Tropang
Texters finally disposed of the Alaska Aces.



2012 Philippine Cup Finals Preview:

Frontcourt: Ranidel De Ocampo, Kelly Williams, Jared Dillinger vs Jervy Cruz, Beau Belga, Gabe Norwood
Unlike their semifinals series against the San Mig Coffee Mixers, the Rain or Shine Elasto-Painters won’t have a big size disadvantage against the Texters. Nobody on TNT’s roster stands taller than 6’7, which means the Painters should be able to match up really well. The flipside, of course, is that, unlike the Mixers, the Texters aren’t very fond of posting up their bigs (unless that big is Ali Peek). Kelly Williams is more potent as a high-post penetrator, and Ranidel De Ocampo is like a mini-Kevin Love. In that regard, ROS will have to adjust how its bigs play D. Their trademark physicality in the low post might not be as effective against bigs that shoot from the outside or penetrate off the dribble.

Jervy Cruz has to continue playing really well for coach Yeng Guiao to have a clear chance at his first All-Filipino/Philippine Cup title. Right now, Cruz is the top big man for the Painters, averaging 11.2ppg and 8.4rpg despite being severely undersized at his position.

Another key match-up is the one between super swingmen Jared Dillinger and Gabe Norwood. Both are unusual swingmen in the PBA because they’re both big for their position (both are 6’5), have good handles, have good lift, and are dangerous from pretty much anywhere on the court. They might as well cancel each other out, but whoever outplays the other will definitely tip the scale in his team’s favor.

Backcourt: Jayson Castro, Jimmy Alapag, Larry Fonacier vs Jeff Chan, Paul Lee, Jireh Ibañes
Given its combined production(38.8ppg and 36.7% 3pt shooting), the troika of Jayson Castro, Jimmy Alapag, and Larry Fonacier is definitely one of the most offensively potent in the country. All of those guys can put the ball on the floor. They can all spot up from practically any range. They all have good court vision. It’s a tough match-up for any team.

But the Painters’ own guards might just be the perfect foils against such a dangerous offensive juggernaut. Jeff Chan and Paul Lee pair up for more than 28 points and nearly 6 assists per outing. Both those guys can shoot from the parking lot, and both can penetrate effectively. It’s like they’re carbon copies of their TNT counterparts. And that leaves Jireh Ibañes as the x-factor. If he can consistently put the clamps on someone like Castro or Fonacier like he did against James Yap, then the Painters should negate the Texters’ sharp backcourt.

Supporting Cast: Ryan Reyes, Ali Peek, Harvey Carey vs JR Quiñahan, Larry Rodriguez, Ryan Araña, Ronnie Matias, Chris Tiu
Whereas TNT coach Norman Black will rely on the explosiveness of Ryan Reyes, Ali Peek, and Harvey Carey (all of whom played starter’s minutes at one point or another in their careers), coach Yeng will rely on the strength in numbers of his fiery bench mob.

At his best, Reyes is as good as any of TNT’s starters, and the team will need him to step up in case anybody gets ice cold. Peek is the only legitimate pound-it-down-low-back-to-the-basket player on the Texters’ lineup, and though he’s pretty grizzled already, he can still pivot and put up that baby hook when needed. Carey, for his part, is like Udonis Haslem – he just does the dirty work and can get the occasional free bucket from fifteen feet and closer.

On the other end, the Painters will be counting on breadth more than depth. Quiñahan has the heft to bang bodies with TNT’s bigs, while Rodriguez can provide some nifty post moves. Both Tiu and Araña can spew fire like Chan, but can also play D like Ibañes even as Matias’s hustle cannot be overlooked. I expect the TNT starters to probably outscore their ROS counterparts, but I also think the ROS relievers should have an edge against the TNT second unit.

Coaching: Norman Black vs Yeng Guiao
Though Norman Black is the more decorated coach, one cannot deny the grit and bravado that Yeng Guiao brings to the table.

Also, Black hasn’t coached in a PBA Finals series in a long time, while Guiao was the most recent champion coach after ROS copped the 2012 Governors’ Cup.

It’s a classic case of one coach leaning on his tried-and-tested system (Black), while the other leans on his players’ ability to adjust and free-wheel (Guiao). In the end, however, I think championship experience and poise will come to fore, and, at least for now, Black’s crew might have an ever so slight edge there.

Key Question:
Can TNT handle ROS's physicality?
The Painters are known for being a team of roughhousers, and I’m pretty sure they won’t be shy when it comes to trading sweat and some hits with the Texters.

Can TNT handle it? They had some licks against the Aces in the semis, but ROS will be a bigger and more menacing monster. If they want to keep their title as Philippine Cup Champs, then the Texters must find a way to stand up to the ROS bullies.

Overall, I think it’ll be a close series. I’d be surprised if there would be any blowout games here. If Paul Lee can blossom into a real playmaker and not just a volume scorer, then ROS might just pull out four wins, but, as things are, I believe TNT is the better title pick.

Let’s all be happy as we look forward to a tight and physical series that will showcase some of the best talents in Philippine Basketball. In the end, though, I see the Texters winning in seven games.

Game Recaps:
RAIN OR SHINE ELASTO-PAINTERS over SAN MIG COFFEE MIXERS, 90-83

The Rain or Shine Elasto Painters booked their first appearance in the Philippine Cup finals, dispatching the San Mig Coffee Mixers, 90-83, in Game Six of their best-of-seven semifinals series Thursday at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.

“I’m really glad it’s over, at least for this series,” said a relieved Yeng Guiao after the game.

“It’s either we finish them off in Game Six, or they finish us off in Game Seven. If this series had gone to Game Seven, our chances of winning would be really low.”

Sharpshooter Jeff Chan bounced back from a cold shooting outing in the last game, exploding for 27 points to pace the Elasto Painters, who are in the championship round of the second straight tournament after winning last season’s Governors’ Cup. Paul Lee, who was in the midst of a two-game slump, added 15 points.

“Jeff and Paul came back to life when we really needed them,” said Guiao.

Rain or Shine, banking on fresher legs with a longer rotation, turned on the heat in the second half. After San Mig Coffee posted 52 first half points, the Elasto Painters imposed their will after the break, limiting the Mixers to just 31 points after the first two quarters.

“We had a very simple game plan: to keep running the whole game, keep the pace fast,” said Guiao.

“It worked. I felt that after one, one and a half quarters, they will tire out. And they did tire out.”

A Chan layup pushed the Rain or Shine lead to 11 points, 84-73, with less than five minutes in the game. San Mig Coffee made one last push, answering with a 7-0 run capped by a Peter June Simon layup with less than two minutes left.

But Rain or Shine struck back quickly with a Jervy Cruz three-point play that broke the back of the Mixers with a minute and a half to go in the game.

Simon led the charge for San Mig Coffee, scoring 18 of his game-high 29 points in the first half. But James Yap was once again missing for the Mixers, posting just six points on 2-of-15 shooting from the field. It marked the third time in the last four games wherein Yap was held to below seven points in the series.

“We’re really just lucky that their guys don’t explode at the same time. James was really struggling again,” said Guiao, who will be making his third appearance in an all-Filipino tournament against the winner of the other semifinals duel between Talk ‘N Text and Alaska.

ROS 90 – Chan 27, Lee 15, Cruz 14, Norwood 10, Belga 7, Quinahan 5, Rodriguez 4, Tang 3, Arana 3, Ibanes 2, Tiu 0, Matias 0.
SMC 83 – Simon 29, Pingris 15, Devance 14, Barroca 6, Intal 6, Yap 6, Reavis 4, Villanueva 3, Gaco 0, De Ocampo 0.
QS: 19-22, 48-52, 71-68, 90-83

James Yap's terrible Game 6 performance led to
the Mixers getting ousted from the semifinals.

Jeff Chan is all smiles as his Painters advance to their
second Finals series in a row.
  
Paul Lee helped propel the Rain or Shine Elasto-Painters
to their first Philippine Cup Finals.


TALK N TEXT TROPANG TEXTERS  over ALASKA ACES, 83-78

The Talk ‘N Text Tropang Texters are back where they belong.

Fighting back a spirited Alaska squad, the two-time defending champions pulled off an 83-78 victory over the Aces in Game Six of their best-of-seven Philippine Cup semifinals series Friday at the Cuneta Astrodome.

The win gave Talk ‘N Text a 4-2 series victory and a ticket to the finals of the all-Filipino tournament for the third straight season. Awaiting them in the finals is Rain or Shine, the reigning Governors’ Cup titlist that booked the first finals seat with a victory over San Mig Coffee in their own semis series Thursday.

“We certainly have gone through a tough series here, which will prepare us for Rain or Shine,” said Talk ‘N Text coach Norman Black.

The underdog Aces battled Talk ‘N Text to a tight opening half that saw the Tropang Texters take a narrow 42-41 lead. Calvin Abueva carried the fight for Alaska in the first two quarters, ending the half with 17 points and nine rebounds to finish with 23 and 13 for the game.

“Hats off to the Alaska team,” said Black. “They will be a force to be reckoned with in the future.”

The game was nip-and-tuck for most of the third and fourth quarters before Talk ‘N Text broke loose in the fourth quarter behind captain Jimmy Alapag, who scored all 15 of his points in the second half. A 7-2 run capped by an Ali Peek jumper pushed the Talk ‘N Text lead to nine points, 80-71, with just little over three minutes left.

JVee Casio completed a crucial four-point play in the next possession, cutting the Alaska deficit to just four points. But both teams failed to score over the next couple of minutes, leaving Alaska forced to foul with just 15 seconds left.

After two Alapag free throws, Dondon Hontiveros hit a three-pointer to cut the Talk ‘N Text lead to four points, 82-78, with 8.4 seconds left. Ranidel De Ocampo split his free throws in the ensuing play, and Talk ‘N Text completed a stop in Alaska’s final possession to seal the win.

TNT 83 – Castro 16, Alapag 15, Dillinger 11, Williams 11, De Ocampo 11,Carey 6, Fonacier 5, Peek 5, Reyes 3, Raymundo 0, Aban 0.
ALA 78 – Abueva 23, Espinas 13, Thoss 11, Casio 10, Hontiveros 7, Baracael 6, Jazul 5, Baguio 3, Dela Cruz 0.
QS: 25-18, 42-41, 64-62, 83-78

After winning a 5-peat with Ateneo, coach
Norman Black is back in the PBA Finals.

Calvin Abueva and the Aces just could no
longer hold the fort against the mighty Texters.


Source: Unless otherwise specified, game recaps were compressed and compiled from InterAKTV. (Writing credit to Rey Joble.)

Images: All images are from InterAKTV. (Photo credit to Pranz Kaeno Billones) 

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