TNT bounces back, ties semis series
BATANGAS CITY— Glen Rice Jr. turned into a liability before picking himself up and becoming the game-changer that TNT needed.
Benched for long stretches due to foul trouble, Rice made up for lost time and fired up the Texters for a 103-96 win that tied their PBA Governors Cup semifinal playoffs with the Barangay Ginebra Kings.
Rice made himself valuable on the floor, hitting jumpers and knocking down long threes as he scored 12 of his 21 points in the fourth that helped TNT build enough cushion and seal the victory.
By the time the former Washington Wizards wingman retired to the bench after his fifth foul off a speeding LA Tenorio with less than five minutes left, TNT was already comfortably ahead by double digits.
Jayson Castro actually presided over TNT’s offense while Rice was out and finished with 20 points and 10 assists as they refused to be rattled by an energetic pro-Ginebra crowd at Batangas City Sports Center.
“It’s a do-or-die match. It will be hard for us to recover if we lost this game,” said Castro in Filipino.
Moala Tautuaa and Kelly Williams also had their share of the limelight, as well as high-motor forward Tony Semerad, in neutralizing the Kings’ towering frontline.
Unlike in Game 1, Greg Slaughter and Japeth Aguilar had few touches this time with TNT effectively sealing off the paint.
But credit for limiting Justin Brownlee in the closing minutes went to Semerad, who stuck to the Ginebra import like a leech and received his share of bruises.
Game 3 is scheduled Friday at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Kings finally found their rhythm halfway through the second period after falling behind by 18, most of them points generated by TNT off turnovers.
Sol Mercado hit a couple of threes and LA Tenorio found a cutting Japeth Aguilar in the baseline for a jaw-dropping one-hander that brought down the house and TNT’s lead to four.
Super active on defense, Rice was saddled with fouls early, some of them unnecessary.
The sprightly import committed his fourth personal just before halftime when he clipped a hard-driving Brownlee in the arm.
Meanwhile, Meralco goes for the kill in Game 3 of their semifinal duel against the Star Hotshots Thursday.
The Bolts, who lead the series at 2-0, shoot for the sweep at 7 p.m.