In battle of gunners, TNT hopes defense holds up
SMART CLARK GIGA CITY — Facing a much-improved enemy, TNT hopes it has been able to make out of its tweaks and calibrations when it plunges into semifinal action with Phoenix Super LPG this Wednesday.
Coach Bong Ravena hopes his charges have shed their iffy habits on defense, especially against a Fuel Masters side that has become deadlier with Calvin Abueva.
“I just hope for consistency. Our offense could take care of itself,” he told the Inquirer. “It’s simple. If we make stops, we get to execute. So we’re really more concerned with how we make stops.”
Such a guarded approach was shared by Roger Pogoy, Tropang Giga’s dead-eye shooter who has emerged as the team’s most potent scorer in this conference.
The Gilas Pilipinas gunner said their opponents have become a totally different squad with Abueva in the fold.
“We all know just how much he contributes,” he said in Filipino during an episode of “Sports Page” on Monday. “Calvin is a huge difference-maker.”
Abueva has made Phoenix a better squad since he returned. With the do-it-all forward back, the Fuel Masters have won five of its six games during the elimination phase. He was also crucial in the Fuel Masters’ triumph over red-hot Magnolia during the quarterfinals.
“We definitely got to defend and try to stay disciplined with our system,” added Ray Parks Jr., Tropang Giga’s two-way guard. “They’re going to come out strong.”
TNT indeed has to be stingier on defense, as they are on a collision course with the second-best scoring team of this tournament. The two teams tangle at 3:45 p.m.
Phoenix has scored an average of 100 points in the tournament, just second to NLEX’s 105. The Fuel Masters are also the third most accurate club from deep, having a conversion rate of 35.2 percent. TNT is no offensive slouch, averaging 98.6 ppg., No. 3 in the league.
As if that’s not enough, the Topex Robinson-mentored squad leads the league in three-point shots made with 13.5 per game. No. 2? That would be TNT with 11.6.
Surely, the 110-91 win during the elimination phase feels like a distant memory now for TNT.
For his part, Robinson said they’re just intent of enjoying their time inside the bubble.
His squad, after all, has been overachieving thus far.
“At this point, we just want to enjoy this experience. We have nothing to lose. TNT is the best team coming into this bubble, bar none. They have a solid lineup, great coaching staff,” he told reporters here.
But he won’t be complaining if his bunch of rugged characters stay a bit longer.
“For us, we’re ready to pull surprises. We’re the underdogs here,” he said. “[And] longer the series for us, the better we’re exposed to tough times—and that’s only gonna make us stronger.”