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TNT, SMB dispute finals slot



It’s going to be a dogfight as TNT Tropang Giga and San Miguel Beer collide in a do-or-die battle for a chance to advance to the finals of the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Philippine Cup on Sunday at the Don Honorio Ventura State University Gym in Bacolor, Pampanga.

Action fires off at 4:35 p.m. with both teams looking to essay a fitting ending to their best-of-seven semifinal series that had evolved into one of the most bitterly-fought battles in league history.

The winner would advance to the best-of-seven finals series against Magnolia, which upended Meralco in six games of their own best-of-seven semifinal encounter late Friday.

The Hotshots pulled off a 93-85 win over the Bolts to book a return trip to the all-Filipino finals since their bridesmaid finish against the Beermen in 2019.

Still, all eyes would be on the Tropang Giga and the Beermen.

It has been a rollercoaster for both teams.

After hacking out close games in their first two encounters, both the Beermen and the Tropang Giga got tangled in a see-saw battle that put their wit, their composure and character to an ultimate test. TNT took Games 3 and 5 while San Miguel reigned supreme in Game 4 followed by another win in Game 6, 106-93, last Friday.

Moala Tautuaa powered San Miguel in Game 6, finishing with 26 points on a sizzling 10-of-13 field goal shooting while Lassiter provided crucial baskets on top of 19 points, five rebounds, three assists and four steals.

Now, Beermen head coach Leo Austria and his wards want to break the pattern by crushing TNT in probably the most difficult, most important game of the season.

“It will probably be a difficult one in the next game because everything is at stake,” Austria, who is coming in as a heavy favorite as he has yet to lose in four Game 7 matches of his coaching career.

“First of all, we need to have a good start and we should sustain that. We need a lot of energy because we all know that TNT is trying to speed up the game.”

The Tropang Giga are also on a mission.

After a runner-up finish against Barangay Ginebra last year, TNT is determined to make a return trip to the finals with the goal of ending its six-year championship drought that has been haunting it since 2015.

TNT head coach Chot Reyes, who lost two of his five sudden-death matches in his coaching career, remains unfazed and raring to go all-out to finally win his ninth PBA title.

With veteran playmaker Jayson Castro stepping up as the steadiest player in their past two games, Reyes is also expecting his other gunners in Roger Pogoy, Mikey Williams and Poy Erram to recover from their slumps and unleash their lethal form.

“We will play with great joy. We know how strong the opponent is and how tough this game will be, but we are blessed to be in this position,” Reyes said, whose last rubber match in the PBA came during the 2012 Commissioner’s Cup in which TNT lost to B-Meg in overtime, 90-84.