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Clash of the Titans

The traditional media day hyping up the PBA Commissioner’s Cup best-of-seven finals between San Miguel Beer and Talk N Text shows coaches Leo Austria of SMB and Nash Racela of TNT shaking hands in front of commissioner Chito Narvasa with players and officials of both sides.

Texters renew feud vs Beermen; Smith stint uncertain

MANILA, Philippines - San Miguel Beer and TNT KaTropa face off in a title series for the first time in six years with the Beermen out to stretch their perfect ride in finals the last three years against a resurgent team under a promising rookie coach.

The two league super powers slug it out in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup best-of-seven finals beginning at 7 p.m. tomorrow at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

It’s a rematch of their Philippine Cup race-to-four-games semis showdown that went all the way to a do-or-die setto.

The Texters lost that series, enabling the Beermen to advance and eventually win the crown versus the Barangay Ginebra Kings – as main man Jayson Castro went down with a hamstring injury in Game Six.

Again, TNT is literally facing a big health concern going into the title showdown.

At press time, the team was still awaiting clearance by doctors for the injury-hit 350-pound Josh Smith. If he’s not cleared to play, the Texters will battle the Beermen with substitute import Mike Myers.

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“I’m just taking it day-by-day but two days of rest has helped and like I’ve said I’m ready to play. I came here with one goal – to help TNT win the championship,” said Smith in the pre-finals press conference yesterday at the Sambokojin Restaurant in Eastwood, Quezon City.

Uncertainty of the status of the massive TNT import makes it difficult for both teams to figure each other out.

“We don’t know whom we’re preparing for. We may be preparing for Josh Smith and it would turn out that we would face Myers. So we can really figure them out only after Game One,” said SMB coach Leo Austria.

“One thing for sure, we’re facing a team that is well disciplined in what they do. Jayson Castro can make a pass with his eyes closed and for sure there’s a man on the spot that he’s passing the ball to. That’s how disciplined TNT is on coach Nash Racela’s plays,” Austria also said. “And they’re dangerous with their shooters.”

To many, it’s a duel of two teams with the most formidable lineups in the league today.

Charles Rhodes is backstopping June Mar Fajardo, Alex Cabagnot, Chris Ross, Marcio Lassiter and Arwind Santos – a Magnificent Five that was the anchor of SMB’s four-of-four showing in PBA Finals from 2014.

They’re raring to keep their unblemished finals record under Austria versus a TNT side now gearing up for a championship.

The Texters will be out to end a five-conference title drought, plus avenge a heart-breaking title series loss to the Beermen in the 2011 Governors Cup that foiled their shot at a grand slam.

“We’re waiting for this. We’ll take advantage of every opportunity that will be in front of us. We’ll do our best,” said Racela, steering the Texters to the finals in only his second conference as head coach of the team.

“We’re excited. We went to a big transition with our coach from coach Jong (Uichico) to coach Nash. He’s done a great job to get the team in the same page and believe in his vision for the team. It’s proven now as we’re in the finals,” said Kelly Williams. “We’ll definitely take advantage of the opportunity and enjoy along the way.

“We’re very hungry,” said Castro in stressing their desire to win.

But the Beermen are as determined.

Both coaches feel the series may boil down to desire and determination in the end.

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