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Sports

Treat Mikey like import

SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson - The Philippine Star

TNT rookie Mikey Williams is playing like an import in the PBA Philippine Cup finals against Magnolia and thats how he should be treated defensively. In Game 3 last Sunday, Williams got away with 39 points but the Hotshots still won, 106-98 because even as he erupted to notch his PBA career-high, his teammates were muzzled. Its a common defensive strategy to goad an import to win a game by himself, make him bleed and sweat but the bottom line is to stay home on his teammates.

Williams took 25 attempts from the floor, 32 percent of TNTs field goal tries. With RR Pogoy and Poy Erram, they combined for 49 attempts or 62 percent of the Tropas heaves, meaning the offense was concentrated on just a few players. Magnolias defense had something to do with that. TNT shot a series-low 40.5 percent from the field with Kib Montalbo, Troy Rosario and Glenn Khobuntin going 0-of-8 together. It didnt help that Rosario logged only 12:15 minutes after being helped off the court with a dislocated finger and a sore back from a dangerous foul by Jackson Corpuz. The flagrant 2 foul ejected Corpuz but he wont be suspended for Game 4 tonight. Rookie referee Kenny Hallig was in the four-man pool that worked Game 3 and erred in whistling Brian Heruela for a phantom foul on Paul Lee taking a triple. Hallig was immediately pulled out of the contest and wont be back in the finals.

Magnolia coach Chito Victolero started Jio Jalalon only for the third game this conference to match up against Williams off the bat to set an aggressive tone. Calvin Abueva and surprisingly, Rafi Reavis also took turns defending Williams in single coverage. Reavislength bothered Williams in aiming from distance and led him to drive more to the paint where the Hotshotsinterior defenders waited in ambush. The ploy was to make Williams go it alone and the outcome was positive for Victolero. While Williams scored heavily, he had only one rebound and two assists in 44:59 minutes. Before Game 3, he averaged 9.5 rebounds and 5.5 assists.

On offense, Magnolia found its groove. Abueva, Lee, Rome de la Rosa, Reavis, Jalalon and Mark Barroca scored their most points in the series as the Hotshots hit a glowing 50.7 percent from the field. It was the first game in the finals where either team shot at least 50 percent. Magnolia was also on target from the stripe, knocking down 27-of-29 free throws compared to TNTs 18-of-27. The nine-point difference was huge considering Magnolia won by eight. Magnolia led 40:10 minutes in Game 3, a dramatic turnaround as in the first two encounters, the Hotshots were ahead a total of only 1:02 minutes. For TNT, coach Chot Reyes will no doubt focus on defending the interior in Game 4 as Magnolia dominated in paint points, 50-26 in Game 2 and 48-26 in Game 3 with Ian Sangalang feasting close to the bucket.

Reavis, 44, has been a stalwart for Victolero in a key role. In Game 3, he had five points and nine rebounds in 35:13 minutes, second only to Sangalang in playing time. His defense on Williams was a big factor in Magnolias gameplan. Down 0-2 to open the finals, Magnolia has a chance to tie it up with a win tonight. The Hotshots did it against Rain or Shine in the 2019 Philippine Cup semis, losing the first two games, 84-77 and 93-80, before winning four of the next five. Can they do a repeat?

TNT is far from being in panic mode. The Tropa is still ahead, 2-1, in the series and Reyes is expected to make counter adjustments in Game 4. TNT hasnt lost back-to-back this conference and Reyes will want to keep that record intact. A win by TNT tonight will push its edge to 3-1, putting Magnolia on the brink of farewell.

MIKEY WILLIAMS
Philstar
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