TNT takes first of two chances to close door on San Miguel
Playing with sustained brilliance on both ends two nights ago led TNT to the PBA Philippine Cup Finals door, but coach Chot Reyes knows that an entirely different level of play is required for his Tropang Giga to be able to turn the knob on Friday.
“The only way we give ourselves a chance is by putting in excellent effort,” he said on the heels of the 110-90 rout of powerhouse San Miguel Beer on Wednesday night.
“We could go on and try to predict what the Beermen’s adjustment is going to be. But in the end, it’s the players on the court—just putting out that extra effort, that excellent effort—which will give ourselves a chance to win,” he added.
Such vigilance would’ve been too much if TNT, the No. 1-seed of this tournament, was playing another club.
Standing in the way of the Tropang Giga’s return trip to the Finals is the very San Miguel team that ruled this centerpiece showcase for five straight years, that streak snapped only last season when June Mar Fajardo, the six-time Most Valuable Player, sat it out because of a broken shin.
And that squad, on a mission to start another dynasty, is no stranger to comebacks, especially with an intact roster.
“I sound like a broken record, but in the end—and I’ve said this right from the start: if we are not able to match the effort of San Miguel, that’s what’s going to happen, the one that you saw in Game 4, that blowout,” said Reyes, whose crew will take the first of its two chances at knocking out the Beermen at 3 p.m. at Don Honorio Ventura State University in Bacolor, Pampanga.
Reyes was referring to an ugly 116-90 loss last Sunday as the Beermen came out of the gates hard and with all guns cocked and firing to never give the Tropang Giga a chance.
With a complete roster, San Miguel is also the only team in league history ever to come back from 0-3 down to win a best-of-seven series.
Kelly Williams returned from a four-game absence and showed no signs of rust, and Poy Erram played with a broken cheekbone to help the Tropang Giga underneath as both gave TNT a boost in slowing the Beermen down.
Rookie Mikey Williams, one of the front-runners for the top individual plum of the conference, is looking more and more confident in this semifinal dance.
Jayson Castro came off the bench and played like the franchise player of old for TNT, shooting 19 points to lead five others in twin digits.
He also knows the key to wrapping this series up: “We know that San Miguel is a super-strong team and they are very comfortable in the playoffs. But even then, we know that we have a chance if we can make our shots and outwork them.”
The other clincher
Magnolia will also be seeking the clincher against Meralco, though the Hotshots will be taking the second of three that they have in the 6 p.m. game after failing on Wednesday to put away the Bolts in a 102-98 Game 5 loss.
The Hotshots are looking to make it to the PH Cup title series for the third time in four years, while the Bolts are working on a franchise first.
And coach Norman Black, having been in this league for a while, knows that there are no other ways around it.
“[W]e just have to do it one more time,” he said in reference of the Bolts’ gallant Game 5 stand.
Meralco battled back from 11 points down and hung tough despite Chris Newsome’s fourth quarter exit to hold off the Hotshots, who have been nothing but relentless this series.“I mean, I know it’s going to be difficult. Magnolia’s going to be really ready for us next game, but we just have to do it one more time,” he added.
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