THE Phoenix Super LPG-Talk N Text semifinal encounter should provide plenty of good basketball to keep us smiling in the coming days.
The Fuel Masters finished 8-3, while the Tropang Giga wound up 7-4 in one of the closest elimination round battles in league history.
In the quarterfinals, Phoenix eliminated Magnolia, 89-88, while Talk N Text slammed the door on Alaska Milk, 104-83, to arrange a best-of-five semifinal series.
No. 2 Phoenix Super LPG (9-3) vs. No. 3 Talk N Text (8-4)
Matthew Wright’s emergence as one of the league’s superstars in the bubble is one of the main reasons for Phoenix’s rise as a legitimate title contender in this coronavirus-interrupted All-Filipino conference.
In fact, Wright’s outstanding all-around performance puts him well ahead in the statistical points (SP) race with 39.5 per game culled from averages of 22.8 points, 5.4 rebounds, 6.0 assists and 1.4 steals in 11 games for the coveted “Best Player of the Conference” award.
Already way ahead of CJ Perez of Terrafirna in the SPs race, Wright turned up the heat with a huge 32-point explosion to lead the Fuel Masters to a thriller of a win over the Hotshots in their quarterfinal matchup last Saturday.
Another Phoenix player, Jason Perkins, is equally impressive with a third-best 35.5 SPs.
Perkins, Calvin Abueva, RJ Jazul, Justin Chua and Brian Heruela also stepped up when needed for the Fuel Masters, who have now won their last four assignments.
“It’s just so magical for us,” said Phoenix coach Topex Robinson, who took the place of veteran coach Louie Alas in an interim capacity only last September before being formally elevated to his post early this month.
“We’re just so blessed to be here, to grind it out with one of the best teams, a well-coached team,” added Robinson, referring to Phoenix’s grind-out game against Magnolia last Saturday.
“I give credit goes to (Magnolia) coach Chito (Victolero) and the coaching staff for really giving us a super good experience that we’re gonna bring along in the semis.”
Robinson hopes to make the most of this opportunity for Phoenix, which reached this stage for the first time since acquiring the old Barako Bull franchise and making its PBA debut midway in the 2016 season.
Facing Talk N Text in the semis should present an even bigger challenge, however.
The Manny V. Pangilinan-owned franchise has won seven PBA championships in 19 finals appearances since joining the league in 1990.
Although the Tropang Giga last won a PBA title during the 2015 PBA Commissioner’s Cup, they finished runner-up to San Miguel Beer in the 2019 Commissioner’s Cup.
Under coach Bong Ravena, Talk N Text will gun for its 20th finals appearances with a talent-laden line-up that counts on Jayson Castro, Troy Rosario, Roger Pogoy, Ray Parks, JP Erram, Simon Enciso and David Semerad.
All three Talk N Text starters — Parks, Pogoy and Castro — are also in the thick of the fight for the top individual awards. Parks is fourth in the race with 35.5 statistical points, Pogoy is sixth with 34.3 SPs, and Castro is seventh with 33.6 SPs.
“We have to go out and get it,” said Ravena when asked about the coming best-of-five semis against a young but dangerous challenger in Phoenix.
Focus will be on Ravena’s defense on Abueva, the “Beast”who was largely instrumental in Phoenx’s impressive 7-1 record since his return from an indefinite suspension slapped by the PBA and the Games and Amusements Board (GAB).
John Paul Erram, who was acquired from NLEX in a three-team trade just before the start of the bubble tournament, is expected to get the unenviable job of containing Abueva.
…Overall, Talk N Text and Phoenix battled 22 times since 2014, with the Tropang Giga winning 17 of those head-to-head matches.
The last time the Fuel Masters won over the Tropang Giga was last Jan. 19, 2019 — a 93-84 decision.
Previous game result: Talk N Text defeated Phoenix, 110-91, last Oct. 19.
Prediction: Talk N Text in four
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