Same script? TNT close to bundling out Magnolia
Mikey Williams was held in check for the second straight game, but it didn’t stop defending champion TNT from moving on the doorstep of another trip to the PBA Philippine Cup Finals and ousting gritty Magnolia like it did last season.
Poy Erram and RR Pogoy were among those who stepped up and the Tropang Giga rolled to a 102-84 win over the Hotshots to take a commanding 3-1 lead in their semifinal series Wednesday night at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Erram put up 19 points and grabbed 13 rebounds, even as Pogoy scored 15 of his 18 during the first half that saw Williams head into the locker room after a 0-for-5 shooting.
While TNT moved on the cusp of the title series, Meralco made its side of the Final Four a virtual best-of-three after a 111-97 destruction of pretournament favorite San Miguel Beer that made it 2-2 earlier.
Williams did get his groove back in the fourth quarter, but at the time, TNT was already up by double digits, the highest being at 23 with less than five minutes left in the game when Erram’s layup made it 95-72.
“We keep on repeating it, but we’re a team,” said TNT coach Chot Reyes. “Mikey is a big part of the team, but he’s not the only part of the team. And it’s a huge credit to the guys who continue to step forward and take up the cudgels.”
TNT can close it out on Friday also at the Big Dome, unless Magnolia can find a way to solve some of its woes.
Meralco’s big men have spent most of their semifinal series against the Beermen trying to contain arguably the league’s best player in June Mar Fajardo. San Miguel might have forgotten that those big men can also make shots.
Raymond Almazan and Cliff Hodge were good on both ends, slowing down Fajardo while making the shots from the perimeter as the Bolts wrested momentum heading into their crucial fifth game also on Friday.
And obviously, this is what Meralco coach Norman Black wants to have happening in the next few games.
“We were able to get the ball to our bigs,” said Black, who pointed out the adjustments in which Almazan and Hodge didn’t have hesitations to take shots when the opportunities came.
And the best thing about it is that the duo made a lot of those.
“They made their shots and that was really the key,” Black continued. “We saw in Game 3 that [San Miguel] was actually leaving our bigs wide open and we just have to make sure that they have a lot of confidence, take the shots when they’re coming and make them.”