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PBA Battle Royale: Ginebra vs TNT

Game Today
(Mall of Asia Arena)
6:30 p.m. – Ginebra vs TNT KaTropa

Bulky import Joshua Smith hopes to be the right investment for TNT KaTropa as it battles Barangay Ginebra San Miguel in the start of their best-of-five semifinal series today in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup at the Mall of Asia Arena.

The 6-foot-8, 330-pound Smith came through with 31 points and 27 rebounds Friday night that saw TNT escaped the jaws of defeat with a 104-96 overtime victory over Meralco in the deciding game of their quarterfinal series.

After playing his best game since replacing Donte Greene last month, Smith tries to become the biggest obstacle for top seed Ginebra in the series opener set at 6:30 p.m.

“That’s basically the reason why we decided to change,” TNT coach Nash Racela said. “With our previous import we lost to two San Miguel teams – Ginebra and Star while we won against San Miguel without June Mar, so sabi namin we probably need a different import.”

“That’s why we got Joshua Smith and we’re hopeful that he can step up pagdating sa Ginebra series,” added the rookie PBA coach who steered TNT to a second-straight semis appearance.

Ginebra coach Tim Cone looks to come out with a proper gameplan against Smith, who along with Meralco’s Alex Stepheson were described as “hulk” for their imposing physique.

Cone only has 6-foot-7 Justin Brownlee as import while Japeth Aguilar is his only major option at frontcourt.

But Cone may put up a gambit in inserting 7-foot center Greg Slaughter, who has been out since last year because of a knee injury. Slaughter was listed in Ginebra’s playoff roster, though Cone reitereated that the former Ateneo star would be back by the next conference.

If Smith does live up to his billing as a big presence in the series, Cone may have no option but to give Slaughter some significant playing time.

The KaTropa enter the series having survived two consecutive overtime period, including the decider that saw them capitalize on an inbound blunder by Bolts forward Chris Newsome to force overtime.

Jayson Castro, who dropped 31 points against Meralco in Game 3, leads the local contingent together with rookie RR Pogoy, Troy Rosario and Ranidel de Ocampo.

Ginebra is expected to counter with Aguilar, LA Tenorio, Scottie Thompson, Joe Devance and Mark Caguioa.