TNT sets out for closeout

Olmin Leyba - The Philippine Star
TNT sets out for closeout
TNT Tropang Giga.
STAR / File

MANILA, Philippines — On the doorstep of the PBA Philippine Cup finals, defending champion TNT Tropang Giga know perfectly it would take a lot of blood, sweat and tears to get in.

Especially with a desperate semifinal rival Magnolia standing in the way.

“The most difficult win to get in any series is win No. 4 so we have to be extra ready for it,” said TNT coach Chot Reyes, whose troops are aiming for their third straight stint in the ultimate battle for the PBA crown jewel.

“Good thing, we have veterans; they’ve been here before so they know how difficult it is to get that (closeout). We just have to make sure to remind them of it and more importantly, put them in position to come and play their best in this game,” he added.

TNT goes for the clincher at 3 p.m. today at the Smart Araneta, looking to ride the momentum of their back-to-back 93-92 and 102-84 triumphs in Games 3 and 4 in this mop-op operation.

The Hotshots are as determined to take Game 5 and extend the series. But first, they need to learn how to defend without getting key players like Calvin Abueva, Ian Sangalang and Paul Lee into foul trouble.

“We need to play defense because that’s our strength. Kung hindi kami makakadepensa, wala kaming chance dito. Pero we should stay out of foul trouble,” said Magnolia mentor Chito Victolero.

The Hotshots were successful in stymying explosive guard Mikey Williams in the last two games but left Poy Erram and the other TNT bigs with opportunities to fill in the points.

Locked in a standoff after four matches, former titlist San Miguel Beer and title-hungry Meralco dispute that pivotal third victory in their 6 p.m. tussle.

The Bolts seek to continue slowing down June Mar Fajardo and his high-scoring teammates like they did in their series-tying 111-97 rout last Wednesday as they shoot  for the go-ahead.

“We don’t think we can stop June Mar but we hope to slow him down and at the same time control the other guys like CJ Perez and Marcio Lassiter,” Meralco tactician Norman Black said.

While Black got big numbers from Aaron Black, Allein Maliksi, Cliff Hodge and Raymond Almazan, he noted the need for skipper Chris Newsome, who was held to eight last time, to be more active offensively.

“We need to get New (Newsome) going. He didn’t get a lot of points in Game 4 and he’s our leading scorer. So we have to study how they (SMB) are slowing him down and try to get him better shots at the basket,” he said.



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