The PBA welcomes the New Year with a bang! The semi-finals of the Philippine Cup tips-off this week. On January 4, it will be the Powerade Tigers versus the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters. On January 5, it will be the Petron Blaze Boosters going up against the Talk ‘N Text Tropang Texters. Both games will be at the Cuneta Astrodome with a 6:45 PM tipoff.
The Boosters and the Tropang Texters will renew their rivalry as they battle for a slot at the Philippine Cup Finals. Petron and Talk ‘N Text met in last season’s Governor’s Cup Finals, a fierce battle of attrition that featured a bunch of technical fouls, flagrant fouls, and ejections.
Even the two coaches were physically entangled after one of the games. In the end, it was the Boosters who won the title in seven games thus preventing the Tropang Texters from etching their team name on the very short list of PBA teams that have won a grandslam.
Talk ‘N Text is out for revenge in this series. Not only would they want to exorcise the ghosts of their most recent series defeat; they also want to get a chance to start another shot at a grandslam by making it to the PBA Finals for the fourth straight time.
Petron on the other hand is out to prove that their title was not a fluke. They did battle a depleted Talk ‘N Text lineup last year but they also had injured players of their own. They played without Jay Washington who was arguably their best player before he went down with a season-ending injury.
Petron-Talk ‘N Text Key Match-Ups
The Spiderman versus Machine Gun Kelly: The Booster-Tropang Texters duel features a lot of good match-ups as both teams have loaded lineups. One particularly interesting match-up is between Arwind Santos (who has made a strong case of being named the Philippine Cup’s Best Player of the Conference) and Kelly Williams. Santos is an inside-outside threat but his real value stems from his defense and his rebounding. He gets his team multiple cracks at the basket by being very active in the offensive glass. Williams needs to make Santos work double hard on defense. He needs to tire out Santos to keep him off the glass.
Mighty Mouse versus Crunch Time: Another interesting battle will be between two of the smartest point guards in the PBA today in Jimmy Alapag and Alex Cabagnot. Alapag orchestrates the offense for the Tropang Texters while keeping the defense honest with his ability to connect on threes from the parking lot. Although he sometimes takes the backseat to Jason Castro, the Tropang Texters can always rely on the Mighty Mouse for his leadership. Cabagnot on the other hand is consistent and steady. He does a very good job of giving everyone their touches and of course he has that knack for draining game winners.
The key to the series, we believe, will be Castro. He is the X-factor for Talk ‘N Text. Castro’s ability to put the ball through the hoop in a variety of ways has earned the respect of the entire league. Everyone knows that Castro could just dump a bunch of points in rapid succession.
If Petron finds a way to stop the dynamo from Candaba, Pampanga, then Petron has won half the battle. Head couch Ato Agustin has a lot of options in defending against Castro. He might pick Denok Miranda or Joseph Yeo or he can even stick rookie Chris Lutz to shadow Castro. We feel that the result of this series will heavily rely on what Castro is able to do.
Another X-factor in this series is the return of Ali Peek for Talk ‘N Text. He's returned to practice with the Tropang Texters just two months after being shot from point-blank range, but there is no information if the burly center will suit or not. His presence would undoubtedly affect the morale of his teammates.
NEXT: Greedy upstarts start to take center stage