Sizzling shows by TNT, SMB imports
The TNT KaTropa trailed by 10 while the San Miguel Beermen fell behind by as much as 13.
But with Terrence Jones and Chris McCullough outworking their respective import rivals in the last quarter, TNT and San Miguel came through with pulsating victories at the start of the 2019 Commissioner’s Cup best-of-five semifinal playoffs last week.
Jones capped an 11-3 closing run with back-to-back baskets as the KaTropa downed the defending champion Barangay Ginebra Gin Kings, 95-92, Friday while the Beermen repulsed the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters, 111-105, Saturday with McCullough taking care of all the firepower SMB needed down the stretch with two layups, two free throws, a three-point play and an assist.
TNT credited its come-from-behind win to a defense that limited Ginebra, which led by 10 at 75-65 in the third quarter, to only 15 points in the last period. And the 6-foot-9 Jones, an NBA veteran, who played for the Houston Rockets, shone brightest in that department by putting the cuffs on reigning Best Import awardee Justin Brownlee in the final period.
Brownlee got away with a lone free throw in the last quarter to finish with 23 points. Two days earlier, he had exploded for 30 in only three periods when the Kings completed a two-game quarterfinal sweep of the Magnolia Hotshots which had installed Ginebra as a strong title bet again this year.
McCullough, also an NBA veteran who took over from 2017 Best Import Charles Rhodes with the Beermen saddled with a 2-5 record, top-scored with 32 points but two veterans shared credit for the second straight scrambling win by the reigning Philippine Cup champions.
Christian Standhardinger backed up McCullough with a season-high 20 points and Chris Ross added 19 as the Beermen rallied from a 7-20 start before getting back into the fight in the second period against the Elasto Painters, who lost by just two in their first meeting in the tournament in Cagayan de Oro last July 13.
Standhardinger and Ross had combined for only 10 points when the Beermen overcame their twice-to-win disadvantage against the NorthPort Batang Pier with a 90-88 decision two days earlier. When SMB won its first clash with NorthPort under the No. 7 vs No. 2 quarterfinal format last July 21, Ross scored 18 but Stanhardinger only had six in the 98-84 victory.
Rain or Shine advanced against SMB by slipping past Blackwater in Games 1 (83-80) and 3 (85-83) of their best-of-three quarterfinal series pitting the No. 3 Elite and No. 6 Elasto Painters. The Elite forged a winner-take-all duel by taking Game 2, 100-96.
TNT was going for a 2-0 lead against Ginebra at press time yesterday with Game 3 set on Tuesday. The possible Game 4 and Game 5 will be on Thursday and Saturday. Game 2 of the SMB-ROS will be played tomorrow with Game 3 scheduled on Wednesday. If necessary, Games 4 and 5 will be held Friday and Sunday.
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