TNT going for the kill
Red-hot TNT Tropang Giga goes for the killer blow as it faces struggling San Miguel Beer in Game 6 of their Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Philippine Cup best-of-seven finale today at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The Tropang Giga’s first of two chances to bring home the title will kick off at 5:45 p.m., but they are tipped to go all out as they want nothing but to wrap up the series and prove that they are still the best team in this all-Filipino tournament.
TNT showed its composure as everyone stepped to stage a masterful 102-93 Game 5 win despite the early exit of their hero Jayson Castro.
Castro, the grizzled veteran who led TNT to Games 1 and 4 victories, suffered an ankle injury after landing on the foot of Marcio Lassiter with still eight minutes left in the third period of Game 5.
With the injury, he was forced to sit out in the remainder of the game and is now doubtful to see action as TNT physical therapist Dexter Aseron assessed that he is still suffering some pain.
Castro’s absence forced TNT head coach Chot Reyes to unleash Mikey Williams and Kelly Williams, who both gamely delivered to give them a crucial 3-2 series lead.
Mikey, last year’s top rookie, had his best game in the series by firing 23 points on six triples, five assists and two rebounds.
The 40-year-old Kelly, meanwhile, was a force inside the paint with 21 markers, nine rebounds and two blocks, followed by his backcourt tandem Poy Erram with 17 points and seven rebounds.
Williams’ performance of 21 points and nine rebounds made him as the first 40-year-old player to score at least 20 pts in the PBA finals in more than three decades.
In fact, the last player to do the trick was 45-year-old Sonny Jaworski, who poured 20 points in Ginebra’s 125-114 win over Shell in Game 2 of their 1991 First Conference finals series.
“It’s pretty ridiculous, right? Less than two years ago I was sitting on my couch while eating Doritos,” said Williams.
“But I’ve said that if this man (Chot Reyes) hadn’t come back, I wouldn’t have it. I’m in no better position than to be in coach Chot.”
Announcing his retirement in the middle of pandemic in 2020, the 6-foot-6 banger received a personal request from Reyes to join the squad for the 46th season.
William’s return was immediately rewarded by a crown as he helped the Tropang Giga end their six-year drought by winning the 2021 Philippine Cup in Bacolor, Pampanga.
With a golden opportunity in front of him, Williams remains focused on his main assignment of serving as a force to be reckoned with for TNT.
Reyes, on the other hand, knows his players need to brace for war.
“The hardest games to win are the last games so we have no illusions about it. It’s going to be a huge, difficult war so we just have to be prepared,” Reyes said.
“We expected (Game 5) to be tough, and the next game is not going to be any different. We haven’t beaten San Miguel two in a row yet, and we found a way.”
“All we can do is prepare ourselves and control the things that are within our control. Just be ready for Friday.”
But San Miguel big man June Mar Fajardo doesn’t want his comeback attempt to get spoiled.
Fajardo reminded his teammates not to lose confidence as they still have the chance to bounce back and push the series to a decider on Sunday.
TNT’s defense was a headache as they stole the ball from the Beermen 11 times, even limiting the Leo Austria-mentored squad to a poor 4-of-20 shooting beyond the arc.
“We really need to win one more game, the series is not yet over,” Fajardo, the newly-crowned Best Player of the Conference, said.
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