PBA Finals: B-Meg leans on Simon to beat Talk ’N TextBy Mark Giongco
MANILA, Philippines—Perhaps the only way to stop PJ Simon Monday night was if he fouled out.
Simon nearly did but despite that, he carried B-Meg to an all-important 88-82 win over Talk ‘N Text in the opening game of their best-of-seven title series of the PBA Commissioner’s Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City.
The Llamados set the tone early but had to withstand the Tropang Texters’ third-quarter ire as B-Meg faced yet another collapse.
“They came out firing on all cylinders in that fourth quarter. They threw everything at us and it was really tough for us to hold on. They wiped us out in that third quarter,” said B-Meg head coach Tim Cone.
B-Meg squandered a double-digit deficit and saw itself behind, 62-67, heading into the last period with TNT looking to pull away.
“I don’t know how, basically, we rode PJ (Simon) and that got us back in the game,” said Cone with a sigh of relief.
Simon knocked down eight of his 18 points in the final quarter that gave B-Meg the upper hand. A hook shot off a spin move separated the Llamados from the Texters, 76-69, with under six minutes left.
The defending champion put up one last fightback and moved to within four, 82-86, on a cold-blooded triple from Jimmy Alapag with 44 seconds remaining.
TNT had several cracks to cut the deficit further but missed on its attempts as split free throws from James Yap and Marc Pingris set the final tally.
“I thought we showed our depth today. We were able to play a deep line-up,” said Cone.
Import Denzel Bowles finished with 25 points and 11 rebounds while Joe Devance and Pingris had 11 apiece. Yap played a sub-par game with only nine points.
Rafi Reavis gave B-Meg a lift with 12 rebounds on top of three points in only 12 minutes.
Multi-titled TNT mentor Chot Reyes kept it simple: “Two words: free throws. That’s it, story of the ball game.”
The Texters shot miserably at the line as they went 16-of-36 and at one stretch missed six straight.
“You can’t win a game if you miss 20 free throws,” Reyes added.
Donnell Harvey led TNT with 25 markers and 13 rebounds. Reigning MVP Jimmy Alapag scattered 12 points, six rebounds and six assists.
Game 2 is set on Wednesday at the same venue.