MANILA, Philippines – Defending champion Talk ‘N Text weathered a late storm by Rain or Shine, 87-81, for a 1-0 headstart in their best-of-seven finals series in the 38th PBA Philippine Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Larry Fonacier and Jayson Castro came up big down the stretch to help the Tropang Texters escape after squandering a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter.
“I was very pleased with the way we played defense tonight,” said TNT head coach Norman Black.
“It’s a good start for us but at the same time we need to win Game 2 to get ahead in the series.”
Castro finished with 16 points, including a layup after driving past Jireh Ibañes, 84-78, with 1:50 left.
Fonacier drillied in a triple from the left corner to push TNT’s edge back to six, 82-76, with 2:51 remaining and at the same time stop a 14-2 run by the Painters.
The Tropang Texters avoided a major collapse thanks to their ability to make stops.
Jared Dillinger had a key steal on Jeff Chan with under a minute left that led to two free throws by Jimmy Alapag to make it, 86-79, with only 22.9 ticks remaining.
“They’re a good team. We did not have any expectations that we could beat them by them by a good margin,” Black added.
The Texters pulled ahead early as the Elasto Painters struggled to make shots and looked befuddled defensively.
A three-pointer by Castro stretched TNT’s advantage to 15, 77-62, in the opening minutes of the final frame, a shot that appeared to have knocked ROS early.
But instead, it seemed to have woke up the Painters.
Paul Lee finally came through with a triple to spark his team’s rally. Jireh Ibañes converted on the fastbreak off a block by Lee on Jared Dillinger that pulled Rain or Shine to within four, 75-79, with still 4:11 remaining.
Gabe Norwood made one-of-two at the line to bring ROS to its closest at three, 76-79, before Fonacier’s momentum-stopping trey 30 seconds later.
“We had lots of problems with their small lineup in the second half. It’s 1-0 right now but I’m sure coach Yeng will make adjustments. We know they can bounce back,” said Black.