The last time these two teams met was when Talk ‘N Text was able to knockout the STAR Hotshots in the semifinals of the recently concluded Commissioner’s Cup. Even though it’s a new conference, with new imports, and under new circumstances, you can bet that the STAR Hotshots are eager for revenge against this Tropang Texter team. But it’s not only the history between these two rival teams that is giving them motivation to win this game. More importantly, each team is also fighting to try get a playoff berth before the elimination round is over.
Talk ‘N Text (4-5 record) is currently in the 8th seed, while the STAR Hotshots (3-5 record) are in the 10th spot. If the Tropang Texters improve to 5-5, that would further secure their hold on at least one of the last two playoff spots, while further plunging the STAR Hotshots deeper into the bottom of the standings. If the reverse happens however and they lose, that would instead put them in the 10th spot, while bringing the STAR Hotshots back up to the 8th seed.
Obviously, this game holds a lot of playoff implications for both of them, so when these two championship-caliber teams clash, you can surely expect fireworks. But again, it’s not only the history, nor the standings that make this game a must see for the fans. It’s also about the clashing styles that these two teams bring to the court, that make their games so attractive to watch. It’s like your striker versus grappler match-up in MMA, or the Warriors versus the Grizzlies in the recent NBA Western Conference Semi-Finals. It might even be like the The Mountain versus The Red Viper (Game Of Thrones), or the recent Pacquiao versus Mayweather fight (hopefully we’re all over that already).
Before I get carried away with all these references and comparisons, my whole point is just that for Talk ‘N Text and the STAR Hotshots, it’s all about controlling the pace of the game, and matching it to their style of play. The Tropang Texters prefer the more up tempo kind of game, where they like to really push the ball up the court (even after made baskets) and shoot three-pointers in high volume. The STAR Hotshots on the other hand are almost exactly the opposite, since they instead choose to get into their half-court sets and slow the pace down so that they can move the ball around the court and look for the most efficient shot available.
Just to throw some numbers at you, the Tropang Texters are currently 7th in the league in terms of pace (92.5) while the STAR Hotshots are 12th (86.6), which is last in the league. Furthermore, the STAR Hotshots are also 12th in the league in terms of 3-point field goals made per game (only 4.5) and they are also last in terms of their percentage from beyond the arc (only 26.3%). This means that the weakness of Talk ‘N Text on the inside will most likely be targeted once again. They can expect the STAR Hotshots to definitely slow the pace down and focus more on scoring inside the paint.
The good news for Talk ‘N Text is that most likely, they’re going to once again win the battle on the perimeter. They make the second most 3-point field goals per game in the league (10.2) and they shoot the second highest percentage (36.1%) as well. But besides this, there are also I think two other factors that will greatly determine the outcome of this game for the Tropang Texters.
The first of which would be the import match-up, and whether or not Steffphon Pettigrew will have a good bounce-back game from his conference-low 7 point outing against Blackwater. To be honest, the performance of Pettigrew has been on the decline lately, especially when you compare it to his blazing start to the conference. In his last three games he has only averaged 13.7 points and 8 rebounds, which are way below his averages of 22.9 points and 11.0 rebounds per game. Perhaps this dip is just from fatigue finally setting in, or from the other PBA teams finally figuring out the proper way to limit his performance. Regardless of what the cause is, the import waiting for him on the other side of the court is Marqus Blakely, who as we all know is already a proven player in this league, and he definitely will be handful for Talk ‘N Text if Pettigrew has a bad game on either end of the floor.
Speaking of bounce-back games, Jayson Castro also had his conference-low performance against Blackwater, likewise scoring only 7 points. This brings me to my second factor for winning – local support and bench production. Against a team like the STAR Hotshots, which relies on a balanced attack and deep bench rotations, the locals of the Tropang Texters have to produce at least their usual numbers in order to keep up. Fortunately for them, Ranidel De Ocampo seems to be due for a good shooting game (only shooting 35% in his last 3 games), and Larry Fonacier is currently on a hot-streak (31 points on 11/16 shooting in his last 2 games), so these two will hopefully perform well along with Jayson Castro in this game.
Finally, I’d just like to end with the same idea I ended my previous article with: Give Matt Ganuelas-Rosser consistent playing time! Not that I’m a fanboy or anything, but his numbers (which I showed more clearly in my previous article) speak for themselves. Talk ‘N Text has not lost a game wherein MGR has logged at least 24 minutes, or scored at least 10 points. He’s a player that can address the two factors I was talking about, since he plays great defense inside the paint (1.3 blocks per game), and he doesn’t need plays specifically run for him on offense to contribute.