Defending champion Talk 'N Text won't go quietly into the night.
Facing elimination and the specter of blowing their grand slam bid, the Tropang Texters clobbered a listless Barako Bull, 108-90, to force a deciding fifth game in their PBA Commissioner's Cup semifinal series at the Big Dome.
It was the second time in the series that TNT bounced back with a resounding rout after a loss to the Energy. The emphatic win also sent a message of sorts that the Texters were not about to be intimidated by Barako Bull's physicality, something that Chot Reyes publicly called out following their Game 3 loss.
But for Reyes, their margin of victory in Games 2 and 4 is of little consequence, since at the end of the day the series is still knotted up at 2-2.
"All we did was tie the series. We can't celebrate, we can't be satisfied. We're just halfway there and we need to get one more game. One win is one win, doesn't matter the margin."
Still, the manner by which TNT stepped up to win its fourth elimination game this conference sent the message that they were firmly in control and far from panicking. They were all over the Energy from the opening tip, racing to an early 13-2 lead and never letting the Energy launch a major run.
The Texters opened up a 55-42 halftime lead and quickly expanded it to 66-45 in the opening minutes of the third quarter. A few minutes later the scoreboard read 80-51, and the game was all but over. TNT shot a remarkable 64% on two-point shots and 52% overall, while holding their opponents to only 36% shooting. The Texters also put the cuffs on Gabe Freeman, who struggled on offense and finished with only six points after exploding for 27 in Game 3.
Ranidel De Ocampo best typified TNT's turnaround from that game 3 loss. The smooth forward was held to only two points last Saturday, but last night he was almost perfect from the field, making all seven of his free throws, both his three-point shots, and five of his seven two-point shots to finish with a game-high 23 points.
The Texters also kept their cool throughout the game, something Jimmy Alapag wasn't able to do last Saturday, when he got ejected for two technical fouls after caving in to Ronald Tubid's trash talking and physical play. In Game 1, Kelly Williams had to be taken out after getting an elbow from Tubid that resulted in a fractured cheekbone. These two incidents prompted Reyes to sarcastically call Tubid "their MVP" as he expressed alarm over the increasing physicality of the series.
But last night, the Texters were completely focused and never let the Energy intimidate them.
"We can't dwell on it (physical play)," Reyes said. "We just have to play with it and play through it. We just have to play better on Wednesday. Game 5 will be an all-out war. I hope we come out with the same energy and focus."
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @Sid_Ventura.