TNT did a lot of things right in the first half of a 105-93 whipping of Magnolia that gave the Tropang Giga a 2-0 lead in their best-of-seven title series with the Hotshots for the PBA Philippine Cup title last Friday night.
A subpar second half is what coach Chot Reyes is worried about moving forward as the Tropang Giga seek to end a six-year wait for a title.
It’s that constant drive for perfection that has made this very familiar line adorn each of Reyes’ interviews ever since the playoffs started: “To be better.”
“The second half left a lot to be desired,” he said. “’So we need to go back and take a look and again just endeavor to be better in Game 3.”
Sustaining the heat
Holding that big a lead in a series would normally make one play it safe, but that is not in the vocabulary of Reyes, as they aim to bury the ailing Hotshots deeper at 4:35 p.m. at Don Honorio Ventura State University gym in Bacolor, Pampanga.
“That game was a lot closer than the score indicated,” said Reyes, whose charges have won the first two games by a combined margin of 30 points. “It just happened that we shot very well in the first half. But we’ve been around long enough to know that’s not gonna happen everyday. We expect a close game every single game in this series.”
Mikey Williams, the fourth overall pick in the last Draft who has been the Tropang Giga’s tip of the spear in this series, is on the same page as Reyes.“[The] second half was tough,” the ex-Cal Fullerton standout said after tossing in 28 points in Game 2. “A lot of mental errors, a lot of mistakes on our behalf. We just have to get back to the drawing board and fix those littles nicks and bruises and go from there.
“We’re playing a tough team and we can’t take anything lightly. We may have a lead early, but that can easily dwindle whoever you’re playing against if you’re not respecting the game,” added Williams, who will take series averages of 24.5 points, 9.5 rebounds and 5.5 assists into the critical third game.
Magnolia, for its part, will have to draw more from its talented 1-2 punch—in full health or not—as Ian Sangalang alone obviously won’t cut it against an opponent that aside from shooting well from the outside, is using its roster’s depth to a perfection.
Sangalang had 25 big points in Game 2 despite an aching back but didn;t get enough support with Paul Lee chipping in 12 on a bum shoulder and was scoreless from long distance.
Calvin Abueva, Mark Barrroca and Jio Jalalon couldn’t buck early foul trouble and labored hard when the Hotshots needed them.
Reyes’ crew is also a banged-up squad, but said that no one has an excuse not to perform at this stage in the conference.
“You just have to come out and play your best—injured or not,” he said, referring to Kelly Williams, who is also playing through back spasms.
“We can’t worry about that right now. We can’t worry about who’s not here, or who’s not a hundred percent. We have to go out and play with whoever is here,” Reyes went on
Only one team in the league’s long, rich history was able to climb out of a 0-3 hole in a best-of-seven series to prevail: San Miguel Beer in the 2015 Philippine Cup Finals against Alaska.
Certainly, that is not one place that the Hotshots would like to fall into, but one predicament the Tropang Giga would love sending Magnolia to.
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