By TITO S. TALAO
Games Today (Smart Araneta)
4:15 p.m. Talk `N Text vs Petron
6:30 p.m. San Mig Coffee vs Meralco
“Is this correct?“ he said to nobody in particular during the media interview moments after the Tropang Texters downed the Petron Blaze Boosters, 100-93, at the start of their best-of-3 quarterfinal series in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
“Five rebounds? This can’t be!“ Black said, shaking his head and mumbling something under his breath.
The former PBA best import and Mr. 100 Percent choice was trying to make sense of the 5-rebound performance of his expensive 7-foot center Jerome Jordan, a one-time New York Knicks player.
“That’s why we got killed again under the boards,“ he said.
Somebody then asked him: “Ever had just five rebounds during your time, coach?“
Without looking up from the printout, Black replied: “Maybe in the first five minutes.“
Laughter broke out in the media room, but no smile creased the demeanor of the TNT mentor, underscoring his concern about Jordan’s anemic rebounding.
“This is something we have to work on,“ he said. “We can’t expect the locals to step up every time. It’s just fortunate that they did tonight.“
Asked if he’d consider changing imports again, Black shook his head.
“It could be too late for that,“ he said gravely. “We just have to push the right buttons.“
The Tropang Texters did in Game 1 of the series, with three local players Ranidel de Ocampo, Ryan Reyes and Larry Fonacier taking up the scoring cudgels for Jordan (4 of 9 from the floor/3 of 11 from the line) and to negate Petron’s 52-39 rebounding advantage.
Defensively, TNT also did a number on Arwind Santos (8 points in 21 minutes), Alex Cabagnot (7 in 28) and Chris Lutz (2 in 23), while keeping Petron import Henry Sims under control in the last quarter.
With their backs against the wall, the Boosters have to find a way to shut down TNT’s lightsout shooters off the high pickand-roll and to bring back to life their absent local stars if they are to extend the series to a deciding third game.
The same holds true for the defending champion San Mig Coffee Mixers who face the specter of elimination after the Meralco Bolts, behind Eric Dawson, took the opener of their matchup, 8885.
Keeping the ball away from Dawson in the fourth quarter and rousing up from stupor stars James Yap (8 points in 25 minutes), Marc Pingris (7 in 26), Mark Barroca (6 in 27), and Joe Devance (6 in 34) will be the biggest challenge for coach Tim Cone as he seeks to stay the coming of midnight and the loss of their title.