Behind rookie Williams, TNT trounces Magnolia to seize series lead
It’s a lesson that’s still fresh in the mind of coach Chot Reyes.
You can run an opponent off the court in spectacular, dominating fashion in a championship series, but that amounts to just a single victory in the larger scheme of things.
“These things really happen. Whether you [win] by a big margin or by a point, it’s still 1-0. So for us, all we’ve done is get the first game,” Reyes said, moments after TNT forged an 88-70 victory over Magnolia in Game 1 of the PBA Philippine Cup finals Wednesday night.
“These things happen. We know this, of all people. We’ve been on the receiving end of this as well in our previous game against San Miguel [Beer in the semifinals],” he added.
That’s why the minute the Tropang Giga walked off the court at Don Honorio Ventura State University in Bacolor, Pampanga, there was only one thing on their minds.
“We have to now focus all our energy to prepare for Game 2,” Reyes said.
Wednesday’s performance provides enough of an insight into what needs to be done to make sure the Tropang Giga don’t end up in a squared series after Game 2 of the best-of-seven series on Friday.
TNT jammed Magnolia’s guns early, forcing eight straight misses from beyond the arc to take a 22-point lead somewhere in the first half, which finished with Reyes’ wards on top, 53-34. It did not help the Hotshots that they folded under pressure, turning the ball over several times and missed eight of their first 17 attempts from the stripe.
And it certainly did not help that when the third quarter bell rang, it was TNT that answered it with a sense of urgency.
Super rookie Mikey Williams knocked down a triple to cap a 20-7 match that gave the Tropang Giga their biggest lead, 73-41, 3:46 remaining before the fourth quarter.
“My game was up and down in the San Miguel series, so I tried to come in and continue to assert myself as best as I could and help my team at the end of the day,” said Williams.
“Our entire objective coming in was to make sure we execute our game plan offensively and defensively. But I thought, the most important thing, was to match their effort,” said Reyes.
TNT surpassed that effort, especially on the defensive end. Magnolia was held to just 27 percent from the field, including a worrying 20 percent clip (4 of 20) from beyond the arc, and lapsed into 28 turnovers which allowed the Tropang Giga to score 26 points off them.
“Magnolia really comes out and plays with a lot of effort, so we focused our attention on making sure that we’re able to match their energy and their effort. And I thought we were able to do that,” he added.
Williams was phenomenal all night, turning in a double-double of 21 points and 10 rebounds—both team-bests—while adding five assists and two steals.
“I just wanted to come in and be aggressive, just to pick and choose my spots and do what I’ve done the whole year,” Williams said. “But [tonight] I think I just have to commend my team and coach. We definitely executed what we needed to.”
Williams had a lot of help in creating separation in the first half, with big men Poy Erram and Kelly Williams knocking down shots and making key plays. Erram finished with 14 points while Kelly added 10.
The rout allowed Reyes to rest his starters early and also deflated the Hotshots, who will need to rebuild their confidence for Game 2 after their starters accounted for just 16 points on Wednesday.
Jackson Corpuz and Paul Lee scored 12 points each off the bench, while Calvin Abueva added 11 points and 11 rebounds for Magnolia after already having 10 and 10 in the first half.
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