The Talk ‘N Text Tropang Texters swept through the elimination round of the 2014 PBA Commissioner’s Cup, and even through rounds one and two of the playoffs, as they looked primed and ready to take the championship against whoever was put against them in the finals. This was not the case however, as they fell to the San Mig Coffee Mixers 3-1, in an undoubtedly disappointing finish to their Commissioner’s Cup run.
With the adjusted and compacted schedule of the PBA, the next conference is already upon us just three days after the last game of the finals. In this article we try to have a look and see what the Tropang Texters can do to bounce back and take the championship this time in the 2014 PBA Governor’s Cup, starting with their first game against the Meralco Bolts.
Things to remember
He who controls the rebounds, controls the game
Seems like the rebounding prowess of new head coach Norman Black is rubbing off on the Tropang Texters, as they are among the best in the PBA when it comes to grabbing rebounds; especially offensive rebounds, and then turning those into points. In the Commissioner’s Cup, Talk ‘N Text managed to grab 52.0 RPG (2nd best), with 16.6 of those being offensive rebounds (3rd best). These 16.6 offensive rebounds per game also lead to the Tropang Texters averaging 12.4 second-chance points per game, which was the third highest in the league.
Admittedly, a lot of this production could have been because of rebounding stud Richard Howell, but even with the change in imports, the TNT Nation should have nothing to worry about. In the 2014 Philippine Cup, wherein there were no imports, there was still no problem for the Tropang Texters rebounding the ball. They posted a league best 53.0 RPG, while still being aggressive on the offensive glass with 17.7 offensive rebounds per game (also a league best). And although their 11.2 second-chance points per game was only 5th best in the league at the time, it was still well above the league average (10.6 per game).
Furthermore, the Tropang Texters also defend the boards well from opponent’s offensive rebounds. The gap between their offensive rebounding rate and their opponent’s offensive rebounding rate in the Commissioner’s Cup was 4.0% (2nd in the league), while in the Philippine Cup it was 3.1% (1st in the league).
You can’t score without the basketball
With Jimmy Alapag and Jayson Castro in charge of your offense on the court, it’s not hard to imagine why Talk ‘N Text is one of the league leaders in taking care of the basketball. With two of the best point guards in the PBA at the helm, the Tropang Texters averaged only 13.4 TOs per game (3rd fewest in the league) in the Philippine Cup, and only 13.6 TOs per game (2nd fewest in the league) in the Commissioner’s Cup. Not only do the Tropang Texters limit their turnovers, they also limit the number of steals they give opposing teams as well. In the Philippine Cup, they allowed their opponent to steal the ball only 5.5 times a game (4th fewest) and in the Commissioner’s Cup, only 4.1 times a game (fewest in the league).
Dial 3 in case of emergency
In the Commissioner’s Cup, Talk ‘N Text shot a league best 36.4 percent from the three-point line, and this is not to say that they were conservative with shooting from beyond the arc either. Besides the league’s best 3PT% in the last conference, they were also tied for second with San Miguel Beermen in 3 pointers made, with 80 for the season and 8.9 per game. This was second only to a Barako Bull team, which made 88 total three-pointers and 9.8 a game. Even in the previous conference before this one, Talk ‘N Text proved to be very adept with shooting the long ball as they had a 32.5 percent shooting rate from three, and made 8.5 of them a game (both second-best in the league during the Philippine Cup). As far as we can tell, you can expect the outside shooters of the Tropang Texters to remain an integral part of their offense this conference.
Things to improve
Although Talk ‘N Text does shoot the three-ball extremely well, the same cannot be said for them shooting regular two-point field goals. In the Commissioner’s Cup, they made only 24.9 2PT FGs per game (3rd worst in the league) and shot only 43.4% from 2PT territory (2nd worst in the league). And this lack of production from the two-point area was also seen in their performance during the Philippine Cup, where they made only 24.6 2PT FGs a game (tied with Rain or Shine for 2nd worst in the league), and shot only at a rate of 42.0% per game (worst in the league). If the three-ball isn’t falling for the Tropang Texters, it seems like they are hard pressed to convert field goals from elsewhere.
A contributing factor to this difficulty with two-point shooting could be how other teams seem to have a knack for blocking the shots of the Tropang Texters. Talk ‘N Text as a team allowed its opponents to average 4.2 BPG against them in the Commissioner’s Cup (tied with Ginebra for 2nd most in the league), and 4.9 BPG in the Philippine Cup (most in the league). Obviously, a blocked shot is a missed shot, and this could also be seen as something that adds to the troubles of the Tropang Texters from the two-point area.
Who to look out for
I know you were probably expecting a name from the roster here, but let’s face it, Talk ‘N Text is really one of the more consistent teams in the PBA. Up and down their bench we can find key contributors who are solid at every position, and their veteran savvy mixed with reliable role players make it hard to really expect surprises from the Tropang Texters. The usual names, the usual numbers, and more often than not, the usual results.
But, the price you pay for having such a battle-tested roster on your hands is also the fact that they have been through so many battles. These battles have definitely made them stronger, but surely the effects of the fatigue and the grind of the games will take its toll on them. Add all this to the fact that they’ve hardly had any rest since the end of the Commissioner’s Cup, and weariness or risk of injury will surely be a concern for the TNT Nation.
The NBA D-League Veteran
Othyus Jeffers (6’5ft, 210lbs) is a name that might seem familiar to some of you, even just because of the fact that you’d think it difficult to forget such a unique name. But for those of you who are much more avid followers of basketball internationally, you’d know that this man is an NBA D-League veteran, and was just recently named co-MVP this year.
After playing college basketball, Jeffers tried his luck with the NBA, but went undrafted in 2008. In that same year however, he managed to sign a contract with an NBA D-League team, the Iowa Energy, and since then has played most of his professional career there. He has had stints with NBA teams such as the Utah Jazz, Washington Wizards, San Antonio Spurs, and most recently, the Minnesota Timberwolves, but most of his success at basketball has really happened with the Iowa Energy.
Jeffers has been with the Iowa Energy for 5 straight years now, and some of his accomplishments with the team are quite noteworthy. Take for example being named 2009 NBA D-League Rookie Of The Year, with a stat-line of 20.6 PPG, 8.8 RPG, 2.7 APG, and 2.0 SPG. This year, wherein he was named co-MVP of the D-League, he averaged a team-high 20.9 points (8th best in the D-League), 9.9 rebounds (4th best), and 2.2 steals (5th best). He has also been named to the All-NBA D-League First Team (2014), NBA D-League All-Defensive First Team (2011, 2014), and NBA D-League All-Star Game (2009, 2011, 2014). His NBA D-League career averages of 19.0 points, 8.3 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.9 steals, and 35.8 minutes in 185 games, will definitely be a boost for the Tropang Texters in the Governor’s Cup.
Jeffers will be able to take some of the offensive pressure off of guys like Jayson Castro, Ranidel de Ocampo, and Larry Fonacier, and this will surely be a big help to Talk ‘N Text. But more than offense, we all know coach Norman Black preaches defense, and it doesn’t seem like Jeffers will disappoint in that regard either, especially with his career 1.9 SPG. In an email interview with Asst. Coach Sandy Arespacochaga, he mentioned that besides Jeffers’ ability to score, “He is also a a good defender so we are looking at him to help us this conference and lead the team as far as it can go.”
Road to Redemption
With their disappointing finish to the Commissioner’s Cup still fresh on their minds, you can bet that the Talk ‘N Text Tropang Texters will want to start off this conference with an emphatic win against the Meralco Bolts, to send a message the rest of the PBA. In this segment, we will be looking at statistics mainly from the 2014 Commissioner’s Cup, seeing that the Governor’s Cup should still provide teams with a similar style of play because there is still the inclusion of imports.
Don’t let them Bolt the boards
It was already mentioned earlier in this article that Talk ‘N Text is one of the best rebounding teams in the PBA, and Meralco is not. In the 2014 Commissioner’s Cup, Meralco averaged a league lowest (tied with San Miguel Beermen) 32.2 defensive rebounds per game. They allowed their opponents an offensive rebounding rate of 33.0% per game, and with Talk ‘N Text’s offensive rebounding rate last conference at 33.4 percent (2nd highest in the league), expect Meralco to have an even tougher time rebounding the basketball. With the Tropang Texters being one of the best offensive rebounding teams in the PBA, expect them to crash the offensive glass and look to score on these second-chance opportunities.
Defense wins championships
It’s cliche, but it’s undeniably true. If defense can win championships, then it can also most certainly win this game for the Tropang Texters. Talk ‘N Text actually has no problem at this end of the court, as they only allowed their opponents to average 39.3 percent FG% (2nd best) and 43.8 percent eFG% (2nd best) last conference. Meanwhile, Meralco averaged just 40.2 percent FG% (3rd worst), and 43.8 percent eFG% (tied with Air21 for 2nd worst) last conference, which can lead us to believe that they’re probably going to have a hard time finding the basket against this Talk ‘N Text team.
Key Matchup: Deadly off the bench
If scoring is something Meralco has a problem with, then Talk ‘N Text better look out for their number one local gunner Gary David. Last conference, El Granada was the Bolts’ second leading scorer with 15.3ppg. If the Meralco coaching staff still chooses to have David come off the bench, then it will be up to somebody off of the bench of the Tropang Texters to stop him. This may just be David’s fellow Gilas Pilipinas teammate Larry Fonacier. Although Fonacier has been more known for his shooting rather than his defense, he has improved drastically in this regard because of his recent stint with Gilas Pilipinas. Plus the added familiarity with the style of play of David might give Fonacier an advantage in trying to stop El Granada from exploding in this game.