TNT puts SMB Grand Slam bid in serious peril
ANTIPOLO—TNT won an enthralling endgame shootout with San Miguel Beer on Wednesday night and booked the last twice-to-beat berth in the first round of the PBA Governors’ Cup playoffs after a 114-109 victory at Ynares Center here.
The KaTropa got the goods from import KJ McDaniels in the wild finish as TNT arrested a three-game slide to close out with an 8-3 record and bag No. 3 seeding while pushing the Grand Slam-seeking Beermen to a very precarious position in the quarterfinals.
The TNT win meant that idle Barangay Ginebra slid to No. 4 and with a win-once bonus over the Beermen, who are going into the quarterfinals as the fifth seeds.
McDaniels finished with 44 points, while highlighting his night with a huge block off a three-point try by San Miguel counterpart John Holland, which led to the two insurance free throws from Ryan Reyes with eight seconds left.
San Miguel roared back from 18 points down despite playing without three locals, including former MVP Arwind Santos, and even took the lead, 108-107, off a Holland triple with 44.1 seconds to play.
“We waited a long time for this (twice-to-beat privilege),” ace forward Troy Rosario, who scored 30 points, said in Filipino.
Jayson Castro returned to active duty and shot 12 points that went with 11 assists and eight rebounds.
“We really need Jayson on the floor. He’s the heart of this team,” said coach Bong Ravena, who also got 17 points from RR Pogoy.
Starting the conference slow and picking it up just at the right time, Alaska got to the quarterfinals scot-free after finding top-ranked NLEX an easy foe in a 106-90 victory earlier.
The Aces closed out their elimination round assignment with a fourth straight win—a stark reversal from opening up the tournament with five consecutive losses—for a 5-6 card that was enough to give them seventh spot in the eight-team quarterfinal draw.
Alaska battles No. 2 Meralco in the first round of the playoffs—but faces a huge task of needing to defeat the formidable Bolts two straight times to advance to the Final Four.
NLEX still finished as the top-ranked team and will face No. 8 NorthPort in the quarterfinals armed with twice-to-beat protection.
Meanwhile, San Miguel Beer took decisive action in the melee that erupted during practice earlier this week by putting Santos, Ronald Tubid and Kelly Nabong under indefinite suspension.
Dez Wells, the Beermen’s prolific import who was the central figure of the fracas, has reportedly left the country and will no longer return as San Miguel chases the third and last jewel of a second Triple Crown sweep for the franchise.
This will be the second controversy that Santos is in for the season, with the first happening last conference when his “monkey” gesture on TNT import Terrence Jones netted him a P200,000-fine from the Commissioner’s Office.
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