TNT strikes back, grabs series lead
Looking composed and unruffled and refusing to talk with emotion, Nash Racela put into proper perspective what still needs to be done now that his TNT KaTropa got to the hill first in its Final Four series in the PBA Philippine Cup with San Miguel Beer.
“All it tells us is that we need one more win,” Racela said after his Texters ran at every given chance and bottled up reigning three-time MVP June Mar Fajardo all night to key a 101-94 victory at Smart Araneta Coliseum on Thursday and grab a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series.
Racela had all the reasons to be overjoyed, especially after getting a mammoth game from veteran Kelly Williams, who scored 18 points while sacrificing his body defensively just to get the 6-foot-10 Fajardo out of his rhythm.
But he wasn’t, knowing that the team on the other side of the floor for Game 6 this Saturday at Mall of Asia Arena owns the biggest comeback ever made in the league.
“We made a lot of counter adjustments in this game,” Racela said. “And I hope that we could do it again in the next game.”
There were a lot of heroes, but none stood taller than Williams, who got the better of the three-time reigning MVP Fajardo in Game 4. Williams, the 2008 MVP with defunct Sta. Lucia, also had a crucial bucket and two free throws in the dying seconds that helped seal the deal.
Racela, though, was quick to put down the match-up and not give all the credit to Williams.
“It wasn’t about personal duels,” Racela said. “It wasn’t about Kelly going one-on-one with June Mar. Had that been the case, it would be very hard for Kelly to stop June Mar. It was a total team effort (defensively).”
Jason Castro and Ranidel de Ocampo also scored 18 points to share team honors with Williams.
TNT started out hot and built a nine-point lead in the first five minutes only for the Beermen to end the quarter sitting on a 10-point lead. It was a game of spurts from there, with the Texters finishing off the Beermen with a flurry.
Meanwhile, San Miguel sports director Alfrancis Chua, in reacting to Racela’s earlier statement that the Beermen are getting special treatment from the referees, said in an impromptu press conference at halftime that “this (statement) is not good for us.”
“We at San Miguel express concern about (Nash) Racela’s statement about special treatment,” Chua, a former coach, said. “When we lost two games in a row, he didn’t hear (anything) from us. Special treatment for what? Because we won (Game 4)?”
In another development, commissioner Chito Narvasa said that he fined Star players Allein Maliksi and Marc Pingris for statements detrimental to the league, and Jio Jalalon for punching Ginebra’s Sol Mercado.
The penalties, though, weren’t made available to media.