Talk 'N Text's Ivan Johnson hugs Jayson Castro after defeating Rain or Shine in Game 7 of the PBA Commissioner's Cup Finals. Photo by Mark Cristino for ABS-CBNnews.com
It didn’t want to end. That’s what this 2015 PBA Commissioner’s Cup Finals felt like over the course of six games.
And that’s what the deciding Game 7 felt like after Talk ‘N Text and Rain or Shine battled in a knockdown, drag out affair.
Each time the Tropang Texters would build a lead, the Elasto Painters would come storming back. Every time Ranidel de Ocampo would nail a big three-pointer, Wayne Chism would respond with a bomb of his own.
Too often, the word “epic” is used and overused to describe match-ups between opposing squads. Let there be no doubt though, this series that Talk ‘N Text won over Rain or Shine by the skin of their teeth was truly epic.
Will Chan play?
One of the first things most people asked heading into this final game was, “How is Jeff Chan?” The three-point threat with the injured plantar fascia in his right foot summoned the courage to play for a few minutes in Game 6, and his inspirational performance clearly boosted RoS. As the ball went up to start the match, however, it became clear that Chan was still in warm-up clothes and would spend significant time on the bench.
Without Chan, Rain or Shine coach Yeng Guiao still had a deep bench to draw talent from. Wayne Chism, the Best Import of the Commissioner’s Cup, was limited to just six first-half points, but he was far from being done. Trailing 21-29 after one quarter and 42-50 at the half, the Elasto Painters were able to absorb several Tropang Texter attempts to blow the game wide open.
Realizing that their chance to secure the franchise’s second PBA championship was on the line, Chism finally got into a groove when hostilities resumed. Tagging with Paul Lee and showing no quit, Chism kept Talk ‘N Text in the game despite the offensive show put on by De Ocampo, Jayson Catro, and Ivan Johnson.
In fact, Chism scored 19 points in the fourth period alone, carrying the scoring load when his team needed it most. It was Chism’s big triples, particularly a contested one with 1.6 seconds remaining in regulation, that got the Elasto Painters tied with Jong Uichico’s quintet, 97-97.
The physical play that has been prevalent throughout this series was still on display on this evening as Johnson continued to bump into Beau Belga, JR Quinahan, Jonathan Uyloan, and even Lee. In a smaller repeat of their Game 1 bumping incident, Johnson once again ran into Guiao while chasing after Chism’s three-point attempt.
There was even a point in the dying minutes of this game when both of Johnson’s elbows were bleeding and, instead of the referees calling for a timeout or asking for the import to be subbed out, the TNT staff were allowed to wrap his arms in bandages as he took free throws.
More than 48 minutes needed
In the first overtime, fatigue seemed to have set in for the Tropang Texters, particularly for Best Player of the Conference Castro. One of the best guards in Asia started to miss the long-range jumpers he has a license to take and even his drives to the basket were not connecting. It thus became even more important for De Ocampo, Larry Fonacier, and the largely forgotten Harvey Carey to come to Talk ‘N Text’s aid.
With Raymund Almazan disappearing on offense after exploding in Game 6, it became even more important for Chism and Lee to deliver.
After narrowly missing out on the Best Player of the Conference award to Castro, Lee displayed his whole offensive arsenal ranging from outside shooting to strong drives to the basket. The former University of the East Red Warrior ended up with a career-high 38 points to complement Chism’s 34 points and 29 rebounds. Unfortunately for Lee, it was his ill-advised three-point attempt with three seconds left in the first overtime that gave Talk ‘N Text new life.
In this series, particularly this game, Ranidel de Ocampo left little doubt that he has become one of the all-time greats in PBA history. Shooting from beyond the arc with a variety of defenders draped all over him, the man known as “RDO” kept knocking down big shot after big shot, often leaving the Rain or Shine defenders shaking their heads and wondering what more they could do.
Just when we thought that he might be tiring, De Ocampo delivered the first eight points for Talk ‘N Text in the second extra period before finishing with a career-high 34 points on 6-for-9 shooting from beyond the arc and 7-for-10 on two point field goals.
It was a tour de force performance from De Ocampo as he and Castro secured the MVP franchise’s first title without recently retired playmaker and captain Jimmy Alapag. Castro came close to delivering a triple double with 24 points, 12 assists, and nine rebounds. The often-controversial Johnson had 30 points, 11 rebounds, four assists, two steals, and even a shot block for good measure.
A champion crowned
Uichico snagged his first title with the MVP group, ninth overall as head coach, and joined the elite club of Baby Dalupan, Tommy Manotoc, Chot Reyes, Norman Black, and Guiao himself as winners with three different teams. It was a seven-year gap between Uichico’s last title with Ginebra and this one, proving that his coaching philosophy and style, shaped by mentor Ron Jacobs, is still effective in 2015.
For Guiao and his wards, it’s easy to ask them not to hang their heads in shame after another great performance throughout this tournament. Knowing the congressman from Pampanga though, he won’t be satisfied with anything less than a trophy to show for all the hard work his team exerted.
Rain or Shine now ties the nearly 25-year-old record of the then-very young Purefoods franchise of four runner-up finishes in eight conferences. Any other team may be satisfied with that, but expect Guiao and the Asian Coatings Philippines, Inc. franchise to regroup for the season-ending Governors’ Cup.
In the meantime, Talk ‘N Text gets to savor this very hard-fought victory. This first double overtime game in 40 years of PBA Finals was definitely one for the books. It may not have wanted to end, but when the dust had settled, it was the Tropang Texters who emerged with its seventh PBA championship.
Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.