TNT seemingly caught Phoenix Super LPG by surprise their last time out.
The question of whether the Tropang Giga could continue to take the Fuel Masters off-guard or the latter would be more ready would be known tonight when they clash in the deciding Game 5 of their PBA Philippine Cup semifinals series at the Smart 5G-powered AUF Sports Arena in Angeles City.
As promised by coach Bong Ravena, TNT did come up with something new by starting Jayson Castro and Jay Washington and playing small ball for majority of the contest.
The twin moves enabled the Tropa to match the Fuel Masters’ energy and get off to a good start, leading to a wire-to-wire 102-101 decision that tied the best-of-five series at two games apiece.
Castro lived up to Ravena’s expectations by scoring 17 of his 21 points in the first half before Ray-Ray Parks fully took over by scattering 25 of his game-high 36 points in the second half, including 17 in the final canto that mainly kept Phoenix at bay.
Washington, meanwhile, finished with five rebounds and three blocks, in anchoring TNT’s inside defense that also pleased Ravena.
That doesn’t mean the Tropa have given up on main big men Poy Erram and Troy Rosario even if the two struggled mightily in Game 4.
Ravena stressed the two should deliver what the team relies on the most.
“They have to be consistent, especially on defense,” Ravena said. “Our points, our offense, is really Ray-Ray, who can shoot, Jayson. We have no problem with our offense. Basically, it’s our defense that really counts.”
After the game, Parks dedicated his game to his late father, former seven-time Best Import awardee Bobby Parks Sr., who would have been 59 Thursday.
Actually, Phoenix needs no major re-alignment in its game plan, just some fine-tuning.
Matthew Wright almost matched Parks’ output with 34 points of his own on top of nine assists and Calvin Abueva, Jason Perkins, Justin Chua and RJ Jazul did their part. But the expected usual contributions from the likes RR Garcia, Alex Mallari, JC Intal and Brian Heruela did not come.
KINGS VS. BOLTS
The Kings and the Bolts, meanwhile, will put a new leaf in their rivalry as they slug it out in the decider of their PBA Philippine Cup best-of-five semifinal faceoff, also at the AUF Sports Center.
Will the Kings hold on to the rein and keep their reign in the rivalry? Or are the Bolts ready to spring out of the shadow and make a breakthrough stint in the all-Filipino finals?
Both are expected to gut it out in their 6:30 p.m. tussle, with the winner advancing to the best-of-seven finale versus the victor in the TNT Tropang Giga-Phoenix Super LPG rubber.
Down to the wire of their bubble stint, the Bolts ducked a potential killer blow from the Kings on a series of clutch plays in the dying seconds Wednesday and thus sent their semis rivals to a winner-take-all.
Staring at a 1-2 series deficit before Game Four, the Bolts would need to repeat their quarterfinals feat versus fourth seed San Miguel Beer, with its twice-to-beat advantage, to move on.
“Just like in our battle with San Miguel, we have to win two games to move to the next stage. We’re halfway through,” coach Norman Black said, sounding without a doubt his troops would push their drive to get to the Last Dance party.
But standing in the way is their old rival with great success in their Governors’ Cup title showdowns.
The Bolts are hoping to change the storyline in this all-Filipino do-or-die.
Being the underdogs, Black said they have to dig deep and summon all the strength and energy that they have to beat the Gin Kings.
Black said it would help a great deal if all their guys do their task that they have to do.
Meanwhile, the Kings, coming up short in their 80-83 loss Wednesday, go for it the second time, chasing a shot at the only crown they haven’t won in 12 years.
Ginebra has been Philippine Cup titlist thrice but hasn’t won it since its title run in 2007.*PBA.PH