PBA: TNT, SMB start duel | Tempo

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Game Today
(Smart Araneta Coliseum)
7 p.m. – San Miguel vs TNT KaTropa

TNT KaTropa is sticking with the big-bodied Joshua Smith as import at least for tonight when their best-of-seven duel with the San Miguel Beermen for the PBA Commissioner’s Cup crown begins at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

The KaTropa opted to let yesterday’s deadline pass without informing the league of a roster change, perhaps confident that the 6-foot-10, 330-lb Smith is healthy enough to take on the challenge that is counterpart Charles Rhodes and the Beermen in the match set following the extravagant pregame introduction that kicks off the finals at 7 p.m.

The only question remains is whether Smith can stay long enough for the title showdown after injuring his right foot in TNT’s semifinal series against Barangay Ginebra San Miguel.

Six-foot-eight Mike Myers is on standby should Smith won’t be able to complete the series. TNT team manager Virgil Villavicencio had hinted Monday that the New Jersey native may eventually replace Smith.

KaTropa coach Nash Racela, in his first finals after two conferences as a PBA rookie coach, has refrained from answering queries about the import situation, but would rather stick with Smith, given how far TNT had gone since the former Georgetown Hoyas center arrived last month.

“Of course at this point, if we could, we want to stick with Joshua,” said Racela. “He’s familiar with the game, with the PBA, the officiating. He’s been with the team for a month and a half, so the question is why replace him if he can play. If we can stick with him until the last game, then we will.”

San Miguel admitted that its preparation has been affected by the KaTropa mystery, but coach Leo Austria is hoping that the Beermen can concentrate on their own game.

“Kung ako rin yung coach ng TNT, that’s also my strategy para manghula yung kalaban nila,” he said. “But we will rely in the basic things na ginagawa namin coming into the finals, because adjustable naman yung ginagawa namin.”

This latest finals meeting between San Miguel and TNT will be a matchup of two talent-laden teams.

Eyeing a second straight and fifth since Austria took helm in 2014, the Beermen have arguably the league’s best starting five composed of import Charles Rhodes, June Mar Fajardo, Alex Cabagnot, Chris Ross and Marcio Lassiter with Arwind Santos playing backup.

The KaTropa, a mixture of hungry youngsters and seasoned veterans, reached the finals behind a dazzling performance by Jayson Castro in Game 4 with 38 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds.

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