(Smart Araneta Coliseum)
7 p.m. – TNT KaTropa vs San Miguel
(TNT leads series 1-0)
Beermen need to tame injured KaTropa import.
Wounded warrior Joshua Smith will once again deal with the struggle of playing on one good foot tonight when the TNT KaTropa shoot for a 2-0 lead over the San Miguel Beermen in Game 2 of their best-of-seven series for the PBA Commissioner’s Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Smith, playing through an injured right foot which he sustained in the semifinals, is determined to give TNT another win in the 7 p.m. affair after his hook shot off June Mar Fajardo sealed the KaTropa’s dramatic 104-102 victory.
The 6-foot-10 Smith, who had been dealing with painkillers to ease the pain, is bracing for a long series after Game 1 saw San Miguel erasing a 10-point fourth quarter lead that led to the dramatic finish.
“They’re a good team. It came down to the last shot,” Smith said. “This first game is indicative of the whole series.
It’s going to be tough games. It’s gonna be whoever team that crawls it out, grinds it out. I’m glad we’re the first team to get the first win so we’re three steps closer.”
TNT coach Nash Racela, who won his first-ever finals game, is hoping to expect more gambits from counterpart Leo Austria.
Austria gave veteran center Yancy de Ocampo, seldom-used for most of the conference, heavy minutes, even trying to frustrate Smith down low while providing some early offense with two three-pointers in the first quarter.
“That’s something that put us off guard. If we could get contributions from everyone, that really helps. I’m sure that’s also what coach Leo is thinking,” Racela said.
Racela is hopeful that his locals would once again deliver vital contributions like in Game 1.
Rookie Roger Pogoy was the most impressive of the bunch, firing 13 of his 27 points in the fourth quarter despite the pressure of suiting up for the first time in the PBA’s grandest stage.
Jayson Castro, a veteran of many finals battles, had 14 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds, while sophomores Mo Tautuaa and Troy Rosario and Kelly Williams did their best to control the frontline in minutes where Smith rested.
That balanced production is something San Miguel would like to neutralize. But Austria’s main target is to make Smith a non-factor.
“It seems like he’s the problem in our defense,” he said. “I hope next game, macontain namin yung ginagawa nila and we have to devise some kind of defense to limit him.”
More than that, Austria would like his Filipino players to deliver in their past championship runs.
Fajardo scored 18 points but Alex Cabagnot went 6-of-16 despite 16 points while Marcio Lassiter could only make eight points on 3-of-10 from the field.
San Miguel import Charles Rhodes scored 21 of his 31 points in the first quarter, but went scoreless in the second and third when TNT erased an early deficit to take the lead. More consistency from Rhodes would bode well for the Beermen.
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