And now the hard part for TNT: Win No. 4
It’s a familiar refrain for any team on the cusp of closing out an opponent—and Chot Reyes isn’t above mentioning it.
“The most difficult win in any series is the fourth,” Reyes said as the TNT Tropang Giga hope to close out the Magnolia Hotshots in Game 5 of their PBA Philippine Cup showdown on Friday at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The defending champions moved to the turnstile of a second straight trip to the league’s grandest stage, taking a 3-1 lead following a 102-84 victory two nights earlier.
But even having three chances of dropping the hammer on Magnolia, Reyes remains wary. And motivating his team—a mixture of veterans and young guns—seems to be the easier part of TNT’s preparation for the 3 p.m. match.
“We just have to make sure to remind them of [the task], but more importantly put them in a position to play their best in the next game,” said Reyes. “And that’s gonna be determined by how they rest, recover, as well as preparation, so there’s not much to be said.”
The Tropang Giga found ways to make up for Magnolia’s defensive effort on Mikey Williams, with Poy Erram, RR Pogoy, Troy Rosario, Jayson Castro and Glenn Khobuntin all having their imprint on the all-important triumph.
A series-clinching win will allow TNT to get extra days of rest while waiting for the result of the other semifinal series between San Miguel Beer and Meralco.
The Beermen and the Bolts are tied at 2-2 going into the 6 p.m. contest after the latter pulled off a wire-to-wire win, 111-97, last Wednesday.
Another rugged match is expected, particularly as Meralco again takes on the excruciating task of slowing down San Miguel star June Mar Fajardo.
Bolts mentor Norman Black repeatedly conceded that his front-court players, led by Raymond Almazan, will have to maximize their efforts to at least prevent Fajardo from getting to his sweet spots.
Drawing up a defensive blueprint for the opponent’s main weapon is nothing new for Magnolia. The team has limited Williams’ offensive production in the last two games—to mixed results.
Not all is lost for the Hotshots, however, as three teams have been able to come back from a similar deficit following a Game 4 defeat, most notably Ginebra’s triumph over Shell in the 1991 First Conference Finals.
The other two came in the Philippine Cup semis, with Purefoods (Magnolia) beating Alaska in 2006 and TNT prevailing over Petron (San Miguel) in 2012.
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