TNT, SMB go for 2-0 lead

Olmin Leyba - The Philippine Star
TNT, SMB go for 2-0 lead
SMB behemoth June Mar Fajardo drives to the basket against Meralco’s Cliff Hodge and Raymond Almazan during the opener of their semis series won by the Beermen, 121-97.
Russell Palma

MANILA, Philippines — TNT and San Miguel target a 2-0 lead but have to be cautious enough against their respective rivals who are expected to make adjustments in their bids to level the PBA Philippine Cup semifinal series today.

The Tropang Giga tore through the usually impenetrable Magnolia defense in a 108-96 Game 1 romp but the defending champions perfectly understand it won’t necessarily be the case all the time.

“We know that the other team is a very good team, especially as they take a lot of pride in their defense. So we’re pretty sure they’re going to come up with something different the next time and it’s upon us to be ready for it,” said TNT coach Chot Reyes ahead of the 6 p.m. Game 2 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

That’s what Hotshots counterpart Chito Victolero is actually cooking up.

“We allowed TNT to make it a high-scoring game. They scored 100-plus. If we’re giving TNT open shots, wala kaming chance manalo. Yun ang aayusin namin,” he said.

The protagonists believe this series, a rematch of the Season 46 All-Filipino finale won by TNT in five, is just about to heat up.

“It’s going to be a tough series; it’s a great team we’re playing against,” said TNT star Mikey Williams who torched their rivals with 26 points and felt the Hotshots’ physical plays in a rough sequence in the second half.

“It’s going to be scrappy and we’re just going to have to go through everything tough,” he added.

Like TNT, the top-seeded Beermen flexed their muscles in the initial clash with the Bolts, 121-97, and are determined to make it a two-game headstart at 3 p.m. in their own race-to-four duel.

SMB tactician Leo Austria said aside from reclaiming the jewel they last held in 2019, his charges are drawing extra drive from avenging their two playoffs setbacks to Meralco prior to this.

“Alam naman natin na itong Meralco, ilang beses kami pinahiya. During the bubble (2020 Philippine Cup quarterfinals), twice-to-beat kami, tinalo kami and last conference (Governors’ Cup) in the quarterfinals, na-eliminate nila kami,” he said. “Kaya naman talagang motivated ang players.”

As in the case of Magnolia, Meralco needs to bring back its defensive identity.

“We were just a step slower all around,” rued interim coach Luigi Trillo, also noting the legs just weren’t there coming off the grueling best-of-three quarters showdown with Barangay Ginebra that ended only last Sunday. “For us to have a chance in this series and give them a fight on Friday, we have to be better.”




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