3 p.m. – Globalport vs Meralco
5:15 p.m. – Ginebra vs Star
It looks like defending champion Tropang TNT has moved on from Ivan Johnson and found themselves a more comforting, less distracting import.
David Simon, quiet but effective, scored 33 points and hauled down 22 rebounds as TNT spoiled the debut of Phoenix Petroleum reinforcement Kevinn Pinckney in a 108-96 victory yesterday in the Oppo-PBA Commissioner’s Cup at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The Tropa picked up their second win in five games, with Simon, who had 35 points and 19 rebounds on his first game, a 108-100 loss to the Alaska Aces last Wednesday, nailing his first victory as a replacement for the short-tempered Johnson.
The Fuel Masters, meantime, dropped their second straight game after a rousing debut against the NLEX Road Warriors, with 33-year-old ex-Boston Celtics player Pinckney, a sub for Phoenix’s original choice Nigerian Kevin Adeleke, showing a glimpse of what he can do as the conference wears on with 26 points and 19 rebounds.
With no NBA ballclub showing interest in the 2005 draft, Pinckney, 6-foot-10, 244-lbs, went globetrotting with stints in at least 10 countries. He landed a coveted spot with the fabled Celtics in 2007 but his time with Boston was short-lived.
The matchup with Simon belonged to the TNT import, a study in contrast with his predecesssor.
Deceptively quick going to the basket and armed with a smooth shooting touch from the perimeter, Simon dominated from the onset with his stoic efficiency and pinpoint passing as TNT opened a 17-2 lead and never fell behind.
Phoenix, made up of the former Barako Bull Energy, did close in at four several times, but Simon, along with Jayson Castro and Ranidel de Ocampo, thwarted all fightbacks by the Fuel Masters.
Adding seven assists, three steals and three blocked shots to his resume, Simon had little difficulty getting out of double-team situations and finding open teammates. The Tropa rewarded him with 19 three-pointers, with De Ocampo, who had 20 points, going 6 of 9 from 3-point range, and Castro (19), hitting 4 of 9.
The assists difference was 26 to 17 for TNT.
JC Intal added 16 points for Phoenix and RR Garcia 14 on 3 of 10 from the floor. The decision to replace Adelek may take awhile to find validation, however, unless the Fuel Masters can regroup in time to offset two consecutive losses.
“I didn’t have to do much coaching today since everybody contributed and played well,” said TNT coach Jong Uichico, who spent most of the afternoon savoring the action from the bench and matching personnel when it suited his taste.
“We’ve lost three straight games so they know how important this one is. It’s only one game though so hopefully, we keep on improving,” Uichico added. “We should be able to build something from this game.”
A buzzer-beating 35-footer from Pinckney highlighted the first quarter, but it was TNT which came into the game on fire, with a 17-point run that dictated the pace throughout.
Meanwhile, league-leader Meralco stakes its unbeaten record when it takes on Globalport today at the Smart Araneta Coliseum followed by the much-anticipated Manila Classico between the Star Hotshots against their former coach Tim Cone, now with Barangay Ginbra San Miguel.
The game also marks the first time Cone will be going up against former import Denzel Bowles.
TROPANG TNT 108 – Simon 33, De Ocampo 20, Castro 19, Rosario 9, Fonacier 8, Reyes R. 5, Rosser 4, Williams 4, Aban 3, Tautuaa 3, Ababou 0, Carey 0.
PHOENIX 96 – Pinkney 26, Intal 16, Garcia 14, Baracael 9, Pennisi 8, Wilson 6, Brondial 5, Lanete 4, Urbiztondo 4, Fortuna 2, Monfort 2, Forrester 0.
Quarters: 26-21, 51-42, 75-67, 108-96