San Mig Coffee and Talk ‘N Text, powerhouses that clashed in seven memorable games for the PBA Commissioner’s Cup last season, try to find their way back to the Finals again when they battle separate foes at Smart Araneta Coliseum today.
The defending champion Mixers take on the Meralco Bolts while the Tropang Texters face Petron in best-of-three affairs that kick off the quarterfinal round.
San Mig takes the court first against the Bolts at 5:15 p.m. before the Texters battle the Boosters at around 7:30 p.m.
On paper, it seems that the Mixers have drawn the lighter assignment with Meralco having the weakest local lineup compared to the three other teams. The big problem for San Mig and Tim Cone is that the Bolts have probably the best—and most driven—import in the lot in Eric Dawson.
Dawson has scored at least 50 points twice this conference and plays his heart out each night, like on Wednesday when he had a scary slip and looked to have hyper-extended his left knee only to play on and lead the Bolts to the No. 6 seeding.
He finished with 50 points and the Bolts pulled out a 118-116 overtime win over Rain or Shine, which put Meralco out of the reach of twice-to-beat teams.
The Bolts shoved Barangay Ginebra to that disadvantage, forcing the Kings to a quarterfinal duel against the No. 2 Painters. The other quarterfinal pairing will feature top seed Alaska against Air21.
Alaska and Rain or Shine will have the twice-to-beat edge in their quarterfinal bids that start tomorrow.
Dawson immediately had an MRI scan after the game against Rain or Shine with team doctors to review the results.
Incidentally, a rookie referee who worked that game has been suspended for the rest of the conference for failing to call a foul on Meralco’s Mac Cardona at the buzzer.
The league canned Rommel Gruta, who was the referee nearest to the play that had Cardona clearly clipping Beau Belga on the shooting arm while the Rain or Shine big man took the potential game-winning three-point shot.
Meanwhile, coach Norman Black believes that the key to the Talk ‘N Text bid in this series would be Larry Fonacier, the former Finals MVP and Rookie of the Year who is struggling with his outside shot the whole tournament.