MANILA, Philippines — Jayson Castro saved the best for last.
With Barangay Ginebra threatening to claw their way back into the game, TNT’s chief playmaker hit a triple at 12.2 seconds on the game clock to seal the deal for KaTropa, 100-94, and secure their first win in their grinding best-of-five semifinal series, Sunday night at the MOA Arena.
“Jayson will be Jayson,” said head coach Nash Racela. “Actually ayaw ko na nga na itira niya yung huli kasi nagmi-mintis eh.”
The TNT veteran struggled for 47 minutes. His impact was barely felt by the TNT side, as he had only six assists on a 0-for-9 shooting clip. His score tally? A point from the freethrow line.
And when the Kings looked poised to mount comeback, he brought the leather down the court, Castro feigned to the left then pulled to go to the right. He took three more stationary dribbles before launching for a jump shot over Ginebra’s Solomon Mercado.
Bang. It was the only field goal he made that night.
The cheers of the partisan crowd was reduced to a collective sigh; the game, now beyond their team’s reach; a series advantage slipping from their hands.
“Alam naman natin na sa series, ‘yung Game One ang pinakaimportante,” said Castro who shared that he put premium on facilitating instead.
“Kasi nakafocus yung defense nila sa’kin. This conference naman diba, sinasabi ko na sa inyo na kailangan ko maging facilitator at the same time iinvolve lahat ng teammates ko para di lang nakafocus sakin,” he continued.
This is Castro’s second shoddy performance of his career since the 2011 Governors’ Cup Finals Game Seven against Petron where he wound up with 2 points on 0-for-7 shooting.
“And then good thing is we have a big man like (Joshua Smith) na kaya niyang idominate yung paint or ‘pag dino-double siya, nakikita niya mga wide open. Maganda ‘yung mga shot namin na nakuha,” Castro added.
Import Smith was again TNT’s spearhead, tallying 35 points and 13 rebounds. 11 of his boards were from the offensive end. His imposing presence kept the Kings at bay.
But it was Asia’s best point guard who made the difference.
“He’s born for those moments,” added Racela. “He was struggling the whole game. I don’t know, during the halftime, he only took two attempts. Maybe that’s also the reason why he struggled.”
“But yeah, he hit the biggest shot of the game,” the first-year TNT tactician said.
“Actually (Castro struggling) is good today, because next game, he will explode,” Racela said in jest.
TNT will try to ride on the momentum when the series resumes this Tuesday, 7 p.m. also at the same venue in Pasay City.
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