Keys to Victory: San Miguel-TNT finals series
Cornerstones of their own conglomerates, San Miguel and TNT clash anew as they renew their rivalry, this time in the 2017 PBA Commissioner’s Cup trophy.
The Beermen have ran roughshod over the competition as they have put the demons of the past behind to solve their woes in the second conference.
Winning the Commissioner’s Cup, a championship that has eluded the franchise since 2000, will bring San Miguel closer to its quest for a rare Grand Slam, a fitting achievement for a powerhouse team that has lorded over the league for the better part of the last three years.
However, a dangerous TNT squad wants nothing but to deny its fierce rival a crack at those feats and taste triumph again, as it hopes to reclaim the title it last won back in 2015.
And the KaTropa have the tools to do just that. After all, they are just one of the three teams to deal the Beermen a rare loss this conference in a 112-103 win last May 5.
With the finals two days away, here are INQUIRER’s keys to victory.
Situation surrounding reinforcement Joshua Smith looms like a bad cloud above TNT’s head.
Exiting Game 3 of the KaTropa’s semifinals series against Ginebra, the burly import came back with a vengeance in Game 4 as he racked 18 points and five rebounds to close out the series.
Still, doubts are casted on even if Smith himself vowed to be fine for the championship series.
If Smith stays true to his word, TNT may just have the kryptonite to San Miguel’s June Mar Fajardo with his sheer size the perfect foil to the three-time PBA MVP.
The KaTropa won the elimination duel with a different import in Donte Greene imposing his will down low to a 40-20 game.
Smith isn’t expected to churn out those numbers, but if he can throw his weight around, the battle in the paint may just tilt toward TNT.
Rhodes’ foul woes
Speaking of imports, San Miguel also has its own conundrum with Charles Rhodes.
Though the mercurial import is averaging 27.8 points, 10.2 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.8 blocks, and 1.3 steals, he has often times found himself saddled on the bench due to foul troubles much to the chagrin of coach Leo Austria.
Rhodes did show glimpses of him adapting to the officiating from time to time, but it’s yet to be seen, what version of him will show up in the title clash, which is a first for the 31-year-old Galveston, Texas native.
Castro’s right hand man
It may be an import-laden conference, but Jayson Castro hasn’t shied away from the limelight as he remains to be the top guy for TNT.
Case in point was him tallying an eye-popping performance to the tune of 38 points, seven rebounds, and 11 assists to steer the KaTropa to the Finals and arrange this date with the Beermen.
As great as he is, Castro can’t do it alone, especially against San Miguel’s terror trio of Alex Cabagnot, Chris Ross, and Marcio Lassiter.
RR Garcia has emerged as Castro’s best backcourt partner in the semis series, but Roger Pogoy, Ryan Reyes, and Kris Rosales must step up as well if TNT seeks to vanquish its fancied foe.
San Miguel and TNT have embraced the power of three.
That’s why it’s no surprise that the two finals protagonists rank in the upper half of the league when it comes to three-point attempts, with the KaTropa at first and the Beermen at third.
Though we’ve already mentioned the guards, we haven’t even brought up TNT’s Ranidel de Ocampo, Troy Rosario and Mo Tautuaa, as well as San Miguel’s Arwind Santos and Ronald Tubid.
The question now is which team will shoot themselves to the championship and which team will shoot themselves in the foot.
Given the star power of both teams, even the slightest of adjustments can make the biggest differences in the long run.
And for coaches Leo Austria and Nash Racela, digging deep in their bench could be one of the moves which can swing the momentum to their side.
Racela has already done his, unleashing guys like Garcia and Anthony Semerad to play vital roles in TNT’s semifinals duel against Ginebra.
Austria has made the same moves, albeit in a more minimal scale by fielding in Gabby Espinas and Brian Heruela to get some minutes in the Star series.
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