Undermanned TNT drops EASL opener, loses to Japan’s Chiba Jets
MANILA, Philippines–Shorthanded TNT Tropang Giga ran out of steam after a competitive first half and suffered a 93-75 road loss to Japanese side Chiba Jets as the East Asia Super League got underway Wednesday at Funabashi Arena.
Last season’s Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Governors’ Cup champions couldn’t sustain a second quarter lead and were not able to catch up on the host squad from the B.League despite trailing by a single point at the break to drop the first ever game of the EASL’s long-planned home-and-away season.
Solid productions from import Quincy Miller, Glenn Khobuntin and Jayson Castro were enough for the Tropang Giga, who went to Japan missing key players like Mikey Williams, Calvin Oftana, RR Pogoy and Poy Erram and still in preseason form with the season-opening Commissioner’s Cup less than a month away.
TNT, however, will host Chiba on Nov. 1, four days before the PBA’s 48th season tips off.
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, who’ll reinforce TNT for the upcoming conference, suited up despite being less than a week removed from his main role in Jordan’s silver-medal finish at the Hangzhou Asian Games but could only make six of 28 shots.
He still finished with 15 points, nine rebounds, five assists and two steals for the Tropang Giga.
Miller led all Tropang Giga players in scoring with 22 points while grabbing six rebounds, Khobuntin picked up where he left off in the PBA On Tour and posted 15 points and five rebounds while Castro added 12 points and four assists.
Imports DJ Stephens and Ira Brown, the former San Miguel Beer reinforcement who eventually became a naturalized player for Japan, scored 19 points apiece while combining for 21 rebounds to lead the Jets.
Point guard Yuki Togashi, who was part of Japan’s qualification to next year’s Paris Olympics by way of the recent Fiba World Cup, played 25 minutes and posted two points. Ren Kanichawa was Chiba’s top local scorer with 18.
TNT bucked an early 14-10 deficit as Hollis-Jefferson and Miller combined to turn things around and eventually put the PBA side ahead in the second.
Khobuntin’s triple made it 37-30 for TNT with over five minutes left before halftime but Chiba finished the period to go into the locker room up 45-44.
Brown and Stephens led a strong third for the Jets, with the latter scoring the first-double digit advantage halfway into the quarter that ended any chances of a Tropang Giga fightback.