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TNT KaTropa stays with wide-bodied Smith

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by Jonas Terrado

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

The San Miguel Beermen shoot for a commanding 3-1 lead against a TNT KaTropa side that is giving import Joshua Smith another shot at redemption tonight in Game 4 of the best-of-7 series for the PBA Commissioner’s Cup title at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

San Miguel wore down TNT in the second half of Game 2 behind its stingy defense and excellent offensive execution and took a 109-97 victory that gave the Philippine Cup champion the driver’s seat for the first time in the series.

On the brink of being put in a deep hole, TNT flirted at replacing the bulky Smith with either standby import Mike Myers or Governors’ Cup reinforcement Michael Craig during the two-day break but elected not to make a change for the 7 p.m. contest.

Regardless, Beermen coach Leo Austria is confident that his team has gained a bit of momentum.

“Magpalit o hindi man sila, our team is self-motivated,” Austria said, adding cryptically, “That’s what I’ve been trying to tell them – that no amount of motivation coming from any personality could motivate them if they are not self-motivated.”

The Beermen displayed their deadly form Sunday when they forced the KaTropa to 26 turnovers that translated into 23 points. Import Charles Rhodes finally broke out of an inconsistent first two games with 25 points and 20 rebounds while Best Player of the Conference candidates Chris Ross and Alex Cabagnot also stepped up.

Marcio Lassiter was another player who did his job with 16 points and seven assists, ending an offensive slump marred by missing all 11 triples in the first two games. He had two 3s in Game 3.

On the other side of the fence, Jayson Castro and rookie Roger Pogoy were among the players that rued their individual performances.

Castro’s 17 points and 10 assists went in vain after turning the ball over 10 times, accounting nearly half of TNT’s output, while Pogoy had a second straight scoreless game following a 27-point eruption in the KaTropa’s 104-102 win in Game 1.

“Sobrang aggressive nila sa mga passing lanes,” Castro said, describing San Miguel’s defense. “At the same time, ina-anticipate nila yung mga pasa, deflections. So kailangan naming basahin yung depensang binibigay nila.”

Then there’s Smith, who rescued TNT with a game-winning hook off June Mar Fajardo in Game 1. The 330-lb American had 18 points and 14 rebounds but played nearly 25 minutes as he was forced to be benched either to rest his injured right foot or due to mismatches.

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