TNT’s Johnson ready for Rain or Shine’s physicality

Jane Bracher

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TNT’s Johnson ready for Rain or Shine’s physicality
'If I can make it through Purefoods and the referee help, I can make it through anything,' says the Talk ’N Text import

MANILA, Philippines – Physicality is impossible to factor out of the upcoming 2015 Commissioner’s Cup Finals duel between Talk ’N Text and Rain or Shine. 

The Texters, coming off a fiercely fought semifinals versus the Hotshots, are bracing to stand against steamrollers Elasto Painters, a team notorious for taking opponents out of their game with intense physical play. 

Import Ivan Johnson, in particular, is determined to endure whatever Rain or Shine throws his way, and emerge clutching the title.

“The way I look at it is, if I can make it through Purefoods and the referee help, I can make it through anything,” the 31-year old declared during the PBA Finals press conference at Sambo Kojin in Eastwood City, Libis.

The American import, known for a shorter temper than most, was always the target of mind games repeatedly this conference, whether it was from Calvin Abueva or Marc Pingris. It even resulted in a couple of intense post-game scuffles outside of team locker rooms.

Come the Finals, which tips off Wednesday, April 15, Johnson said he is ready to lock horns with the big man everybody loves to hate, Beau Belga, who thrives in hostile environments such as Barangay Ginebra games.

“That’s what I came for,” said Johnson, who is averaging 30 points and 14 rebounds throughout the conference. “They’re a good team but we’re a good team, too. It’s definitely a good match.”

Johnson is not promising he can hold his temper, though.

“Probably not, but we’re gonna get it done.”

Sweet-shooting forward Ranidel de Ocampo is also expecting a dogfight. 

“We’re ready,” the 33-year old Texters reliable stated in his deep voice as if in jest, but with every ounce of truth. “We’re ready for a war.”

Expect a shootout

A best-of-7 affair between two of the league’s most rugged and aggressive teams can only mean pushing each other beyond their limits, figuratively and literally. But expect one or both sides to catch fire from beyond the arc almost every night.

Rain or Shine coach Yeng Guiao admitted three-point shooting will be a “vital factor for both teams in winning games” but is optimistic they can cancel each other out in that respect.

“We were averaging around 32 shots a game. I thought that was a lot. But Talk ’N Text shoots like 33 [shots] so it’s almost even,” the fiery coach explained before touching on the Painters’ dilemma.

“They’re shooting a better percentage than we are so that’s going to be a problem. We made 19 three-point shots in one game, I thought that was gonna be hard to match but they matched it.”

Both teams are loaded with sharp-shooters in guys like Paul Lee, Jeff Chan, Gabe Norwood, Jonathan Uyloan and Chris Tiu, among others, for Rain or Shine. Talk ’N Text, on the other hand, has Jayson Castro, De Ocampo, Larry Fonacier, Kevin Alas, Jay Washington and more.

But Guiao particularly expressed concern for potential Best Player of the Conference awardee Castro, who has been nothing short of flammable in the Texters’ last two games, shooting a combined 15-of-20 from downtown.

(READ: At his best, there’s no one like Jayson Castro)

“He’s going to be a big problem for us,” he said, adding that his team will find a way to match up.

“But at the same time, if they can shoot the 3, we can also shoot the 3. We’re hoping that we can cancel each other out in terms of outside shooting and try to win the game in some other way.”

With two squads playing nearly the same type of basketball, the series is expected to draw in the crowd.

League Commissioner Chito Salud as well as chairman Pato Gregorio are both confident the series will be a classic.

“Basically the same style of basketball. Run and gun, three-point shots, physical on defense and then you add the dimension of the new players stepping up for Talk ’N Text and Rain or Shine,” Salud explained. 

“It’s a mix also with the stalwarts of both teams. It’s going to be a nice match-up for the purists and for the ardent fans. This will be a quality series.” –

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