Talk ‘N Text supporters wore T-shirts with the slogan “Defense wins championships” written on them.
And for the third straight game last night, the Tropang Texters did all the hard work on the floor to make sure that they live true to the saying.
The Tropang Texters erased a nine-point fourth-quarter deficit by holding Rain or Shine scoreless for almost six minutes, pounding out a 89-80 victory for a 3-0 lead in their PBA Philippine Cup title series before 16,000 screaming fans at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Jimmy Alapag provided the firepower from the outside, draining two straight triples that snapped the game’s last tie at 76, as the Texters moved within another win of becoming the first team in 30 years to win this tournament three straight seasons.
“Considering we’re up 3-0, we go for the championship on Wednesday,” said Talk ‘N Text coach Norman Black, on the verge of the 11th title of his career. “We really struggled offensively. They did a good job defending us today.
“If it ends up being a sweep, so be it. We will come on Wednesday trying to win the championship.”
There have only been five title-series sweeps in the history of the PBA, with the last happening in the 2009-2010 Philippine Cup when Purefoods applied the broom on Alaska.
Rain or Shine’s Yeng Guiao owns one of those, steering Swift and Tony Dwayne “The Hurricane” Harris to a 4-0 mastery of Dell Demps and 7-Up in the 1992 Third Conference.
No team has rebounded from a 0-3 deficit in a title series since the league started in 1975.
Jason Castro, a prime candidate for the Papa John’s Pizza-PBA Press Corps Finals MVP award, paced the Texters with 19 points with Alapag finishing with 15, 11 of them in the fourth period.
Rain or Shine stayed in the lead for quite a long time, compared to the combined 3 1/2 minutes that it was on the driver’s seat in the first two games, as Beau Belga hit a triple with 10:57 left that gave the Painters a 70-61 lead.
But the next Rain or Shine baskets came in trickles after that, with rookie Chris Tiu knocking in a jumper for a 76-73 lead with 8:04 left.
There was a long scoreless spell for both sides before Ranidel de Ocampo drained a triple with 5:51 remaining for that 76-all tie. A series of misses from the Painters doomed their chances.
Meanwhile, the Best Player of the Conference award, where Castro and De Ocampo and Alaska’s prolific rookie Calvin Abueva are the hot favorites, will be handed out before Game 4 on Wednesday.
Castro was already in twin digits with 12 after the first half, missing just two of seven total attempts from the field in making a mockery of all defenses thrown at him by Yeng Guiao and the Painters.
Castro scored nine of those 12 points in the second quarter, including a jumper over the outstretched arms of Paul Lee at the buzzer that gave the Texters a 42-39 advantage going into the halftime break.
Rain or Shine has never led after the half in each of the first three games, thanks in large part to the great defense played by the Texters on the Painters’ big guns, most notably, on Jeff Chan.
Chan, who scored 35 points in an elimination-round game against Air21, was held to just three points in the first 24 minutes, with the former Rookie of the Year Lee chipping in just four points.
In the first two games, the Painters were in the lead only for a combined 3 1/2 minutes, proof of the Texters’ dominance
TALK ‘N TEXT 89—Castro 19, Alapag 15, De Ocampo 13, Reyes 11, Williams 11, Carey 6, Dillinger 5, Fonacier 5, Peek 4, Aban 0.
RAIN OR SHINE 80—Tiu 14, Cruz 11, Rodriguez 10, Arana 10, Ibanes 8, Lee 7, Belga 6, Norwood 5, Quinahan 4, Chan 3, Tang 2.
Quarters: 22-20, 42-39, 61-65, 89-80