Red-hot TNT Tropang Giga and Magnolia seek to stretch their leads when they tackle separate foes in Game 2 of their Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Philippine Cup best-of-seven semifinals at the Don Honorio Ventura State University in Bacolor, Pampanga.
The Tropang Giga clash with San Miguel Beer at 3 p.m. while the Hotshots tackle Meralco in the 6 p.m. featured encounter, looking to post a 2-0 lead that would put them closer to the best-of-seven finals showdown.
Undefeated since dropping a 67-83 loss to San Miguel on 8 September, the Tropang Giga sustained their blazing form as they pulled off a thrilling 89-88 escape of the Beermen in Game 1, thanks to the heroics of Roger Pogoy.
Pogoy, one of the league’s best two-way players, carried the scoring cudgels late in the game and finished with a conference-high 23 points, three rebounds, three assists and two steals.
Veteran playmaker Jayson Castro also churned out 16 points and six rebounds while the frontcourt duo of JP Erram and Troy Rosario added 15 and 14 markers apiece.
For TNT head coach Chot Reyes, their main concern right now is to step up and make the most out of their lineup, especially with the absence of Filipino-American Kelly Williams, who will continue to miss the action due to the league’s health and safety protocols.
“There is certainly a lot to improve on. It starts with the effort, playing with a lot of effort gives us a chance,” Reyes said.
“Our focus is just to give our best effort and see what happens next. We are up against a very strong team.”
True enough, padding their series lead against a team like the Beermen will not be easy.
Despite finding themselves in a 0-1 hole, the Beermen’s morale stays intact and are still eager to avenge their opening loss to equalize the series.
San Miguel head coach Leo Austria said they badly need to improve their ball possession after recording a frustrating 23 turnovers, which the TNT took advantage of in their series opener.
He also said they need to continue their hounding defense against TNT rookie and Best Player of the Conference candidate Mikey Williams, whom they successfully limited to only seven points, eight rebounds and six assists.
Austria said he remains confident, especially having a hardworking crew led by playoff debutant CJ Perez, Terrence Romeo and the veteran core of June Mar Fajardo, Arwind Santos, Marcio Lassiter and Chris Ross.
“We had a great shooting, but our only problem was the turnovers. I think that was the main culprit,” Austria said.
“We didn’t play our A-game but we still had the chance (in Game 1). This is a series, so we have enough time to adjust.”
Also looking to gain a 2-0 lead is Magnolia.
After taking Game 1 with an 88-79 win against Meralco, Hotshots coach Chito Victolero said they are raring to boost their energy in anticipation for a highly-physical and intense game against the Bolts.
“I like the discipline and attitude of my players. Hopefully, we continue to do that as the series goes on,” Victolero said.
“We like our chances of going to the finals. But we are focusing first in the semifinals.”