MANILA, Philippines – Limited to his lowest playoff output since 2011, Jayson Castro still somehow found a way to make an impact for the TNT KaTropa.
The stocky point guard’s jumper was not falling in Game 1 of their PBA Commissioner’s Cup semifinals series against Ginebra, and he would not score his first point of the contest until the 3:09 mark of the fourth quarter, when he made one of two free throws for a 91-88 lead.
Yet with the KaTropa clinging to a 97-94 advantage with just 30 seconds to go, there was no doubt that TNT still wanted the ball in the hands of its best shot-creator.
And Castro did not fail them, as he rose for what served as the dagger three-pointer with 12.2 seconds left. His lone field goal of the game – out of ten attempts – gave TNT a 100-94 win, and a 1-0 lead in their best-of-5 series.
“Actually, ayaw ko na nga na itira niya ‘yung huli, kasi nagmi-mintis eh,” said TNT coach Nash Racela of Castro’s final shot, after watching his point guard brick his first four attempts from downtown.
[I didn’t want him to take those shots, because he was missing them.]
Yet Racela also noted that Castro has always had a knack for coming up big in crucial moments for the KaTropa all throughout his career.
“Jayson will be Jayson,” he said. “He was really born for those moments.”
“He was struggling the whole game, and I don’t know – during the halftime, he only took two attempts yata eh. Maybe that’s also the reason why he struggled. But yeah, he hit the biggest shot of the game,” he added.
Castro finished with only four points on 1-of-10 shooting, though he did have six assists in the contest. It was his lowest scoring output since Game 7 of the 2011 PBA Governors’ Cup Finals against Petron Blaze, when he had only two points off free throws and missed all seven of his field goal attempts.
Yet scoring has not been a priority for Castro in the Commissioner’s Cup, as he has instead set his focus on making plays for his teammates and making opposing teams pay for all the defensive attention that is lavished on him.
“Naka-focus ‘yung defense sa akin,” said Castro. “This conference naman ‘di ba, sinasabi ko sa inyo na kailangan ko maging facilitator at i-involve lahat ng teammates ko, para ‘di lang naka-focus sa akin.”
“And the good thing is, we have a big man like Josh (Smith) na kaya niyang i-dominate ‘yung paint, or ‘pag dino-double siya, nakikita niya mga wide open. Maganda ‘yung mga shot namin na nakuha,” he added.
[The defense is always focused on me. I’ve always said that in this conference, I have to be a facilitator and involve all of my teammates, so the other team cannot focus on just me. The good thing is, we have a big man like Joshua Smith who can dominate the paint and make passes out of double-teams. We are able to get good shots.]
With Castro being limited offensively, it was Smith (35 points) and Roger Pogoy (17 points) who did led the way in scoring for the KaTropa. Ranidel de Ocampo also contributed 12 points in the contest.
Rather than worrying about his point totals, Castro is instead anticipating the adjustments that Ginebra will inevitably make in Game 2 of the semifinals on Tuesday.
“Alam naman natin na sa series, ‘yung Game 1 ang pinaka-importante,” he said. “Sana, magtuloy-tuloy.”
“At the same time, ‘yun nga – game of adjustments naman ang series, so for sure, maga-adjust sila,” Castro predicted. “Kailangan namin maging ready, and at the same time, i-improve pa namin ‘yung mga mistake sa game na ‘to.”
[We know that getting Game 1 is very important in a series. But at the same time, it will be a game of adjustments, and we know they will adjust. We have to be ready, and we have to improve on the mistakes we made in this game.]
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