In what looked like a series that was going to be Ginebra all the way, TNT found a way to even the series up with a gutsy win against the suddenly streaking and confident Ginebra San Miguel. TNT stormed to an early 10-point lead in the 1st quarter. But Ginebra came back roaring behind the leadership of Tenorio. After that, the game was pretty much up and down for the rest of the first half. Neither side wanted to relent with timely baskets showered throughout the game. There were those awkward floaters/one-footed jumpers from Jayson Castro. A couple of Jimmy Alapag and Fireball threes. There was that Macklin SLAM sprinkled with some Kirby jumpers.

Of course, the second half was a tale of two stories. Behind a great team effort, Ginebra took over in the third. Their defense was solid, holding Talk ‘n Text to a meager 12 point quarter. Even more surprising were the numerous bad decisions committed by TNT — none worse than the early shot clock drive by Jimmy Alapag. Yes, he got TNT two points from the line but there was still 16 seconds left on the clock and Ginebra had enough time to get a shot of (which Helterbrand did).

The fourth quarter was characterized by TNT’s quick comeback — they cut the lead to one and eventually took the lead in just under four minutes. Key turnovers that turned into easy fastbreak points for TNT did not help Ginebra’s cause. In the end, it was not the offense that won the game but the defense. On to the bullet points:

Talk 'n Text, Ginebra

This was a battle to score

– Ranidel had a pretty crappy first three quarters. He was in foul trouble for most of the game and could not find a groove. Until he decided to take over in the fourth, guarding the surprisingly effective Kirby Raymundo and making a couple of baskets here and there, none more important than his dagger three of a Castro kick out. I think it’s a great testament to TNT’s depth and Black’s strategic planning that he was able to keep the game at bay even without one of the best forwards in the game.


Ranidel with his only 3PT make of the evening. It couldn’t have come at a better time (Photo Credit: Nuki Sabio)

– Despite Ranidel’s heroic, game-sealing three and fantastic fourth quarter, he was not my choice for MVP. No, that honor belongs to Jayson Castro — who demolished the interior defense of Ginebra. Time and time again, Castro would find his way near the hoop (from a simple ball screen or just an isolation) and would either take the shot or drew the foul. His passing game was not on point (as seen when he played without Jimmy) but when allowed to operate as a scorer, Jayson’s ability shone through. TNT needed every bit of his 22 points (TS of 59.4%).

– As you can see from the four factors, the game was won on the defensive end. TNT had a pretty crappy offensive game — too many turnovers (especially in that 3rd quarter) that led to 16 points. That’s not going to cut it for TNT.

Preview for the next Game:

1. A much better effort from Tenorio and Macklin – with a long layoff before the next game, Tenorio will have enough time to nurse his health closer and closer to 100%. He played with two injuries (a bad hammy and a hyperextended elbow). He knows that Ginebra needs him so he’s going to take the time off, work with the trainers and find a way to minimize the pain and allow him to play close to his true potential. Eight points (TS of 23.7%) and two assists is just not going to cut it. Macklin, on the other hand, played horribly tonight (a huge credit for that is Jordan’s great post defense on him). He was too mechanic with his movements in the post and this allowed Jordan to continuously slap the ball out to the perimeter and/or contest his awkward-looking right hooks. Tenorio getting healthy (or at least close to it) will only mean good things for VMack. 

2. The silent assassin lives – For TNT, Larry Fonacier — who usually knocks down three pointers when his team needs him the most — was nonexistent today from the outside. TNT ran some beautiful double drag screens to free him up (twice) and Larry was taking smart shots out there (open and in rhythm) so he’ll probably hit those at some point in this series.

3. A chess match – Towards the end of the game, with TNT holding on to a one-point lead, Norman Black and Alfrancis Chua entered into a mini-chess match, burning most of their timeouts to get their teams into some offensive sets. This game, it was Norman Black who won. Look, I understand that late in the game, you want to minimize risk and still get a good shot of. That’s a big reason why “end-of-the-clock” scorers are so valued in basketball. Precisely because you can call sets for them, place them in their most comfortable spot, space teammates accordingly and work from there. One or two passes are all that you’re going to see in a set play coming out of a timeout in the late game. But there’s a big difference between a great isolation/post-up set from a horrible one. Alfrancis’ decision to go to Macklin in the dying seconds with Ginebra down one was defensible. But I did not see any pre-catch work (i.e. before he got the ball from Tenorio). This allowed Jordan to push him all the way out and make Macklin uncomfortable. Some simple cross screening action would have helped Macklin get deeper position. Maybe create a misdirection play from that cross screen action. I absolutely love creative sets that get players in a position to succeed. Black did just that (setting up that beautiful rainbow from Ranidel). Coach Alfrancis, didn’t. Look for him to bounce back from this and adjust accordingly.

Read our series previews here:

from RJ Salido – Playoff Preview: Ginebra battles Talk ‘n Text for finals berth

from Nico Baguio – Numerophilia: Talk ‘n Text and Ginebra clash in Comm. Cup semis