Defending champion TNT overcomes import-less lineup to edge out Blackwater Elite
Sans their highly-touted import, the Talk ‘N Text Tropang Texters started their title-retention bid on a high note after they escaped the Blackwater Elite, 108-102, Wednesday night at the start of the 41st PBA Commissioner’s Cup at the Araneta Coliseum.
The veteran duo of Jayson Castro and Ranidel de Ocampo helped the Tropang Texters survive Ivan Johnson’s absence by combining for 42 points.
The come-backing Johnson served a one-game suspension that the league meted out after he figured in a fight in the team’s tune-up game with the same Blackwater squad last Jan. 30.
Johnson, a former Atlanta Hawk, was also fined P50,000.
Castro scattered 22 points and hit a critical triple that gave the Tropang Texters a 106-102 lead after the Elite moved with a point with 1:11 left.
Returning from a back injury, De Ocampo chipped in 20 points.
“Buti nakalusot ng walang import, so credit to the players. Maski walang import laban pa rin sila,” said TNT coach Jong Uichico.
Talk ‘N Text never felt threatened by the excellent form of Blackwater guard Carlo Lastimosa with his career-high 39 points.
The Elite, however, failed to get significant contributions from import MJ Rhett, who finished with just 16 points and seven rebounds.
“I just have to adjust with the rules here, because you can’t use an arm-bar or play more physical, which is what I’m used to in the States,” said Rhett in a pba.inquirer.net report.
Rhett scored 12 of his total output in the second half where the Elite tried to come back from a 76-90 deficit.
Ryan Reyes and Mo Tautuaa 16 chipped in 16 points apiece for Talk ‘N Text.
The rookie Tautuaa had 10 points in a torrid third quarter run that saw Talk ‘N Text taking a 73-82 lead, going into the final period.
TALK ‘N TEXT (108) – Castro 22, De Ocampo 20, Reyes R.16, Tautuaa 16, Williams 9, Rosser 8, Fonacier 7, Carey 6, Reyes J. 4, Ababou 0, Aban 0, Nuyles 0.
BLACKWATER (102 )- Lastimosa 39, Rhett 16, Cervantes 15, Cortez 14, Dela Cruz 11, Reyes 3, Gamalinda 2, Golla 2, Bulawan 0, Canada 0, Erram 0, Tiongson 0.
QUARTER SCORES: 29-26, 52-44, 83-72, 108-102
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