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PBA: TNT tries again today

Game Today
(Cuneta Astrodome)
5 p.m. – Ginebra vs TNT KaTropa

It’s decision time for TNT KaTropa.

The KaTropa will have to make up their minds regarding import Joshua Smith in Game 4 today when they again try to close out their PBA Commissioner’s Cup semifinal series against Barangay Ginebra San Miguel at the Cuneta Astrodome in Pasay City.

Smith, the 6-foot-10, 330-lb. reinforcement of TNT, was a dominant force in the shaded area during the first two games of the series which the KaTropa won. But a right foot injury midway in the second period of Game 3 Thursday had hampered his movements and, as it turned out, TNT’s finals bid, as well.

Top seed Ginebra took advantage of the situation to score its first win and stay alive in the best-of-five showdown, 125-101, at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

With or without Smith, though, TNT coach Nash Racela said they still have to make the necessary adjustments to be able to beat Ginebra in their 5 p.m. game and make a return trip to the finals.

“It’s a game of adjustments,” said Racela, whose team’s last stint in the PBA championship was in 2015 when it bagged the Commissioner’s Cup title under then mentor Jong Uichico, with Racela an assistant.

Smith had an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) Thursday evening, and a team insider said results showed a small tear in the ligament between the fourth (ring) and fifth (baby) toes.

According to the source, the coaching staff will assess the status of Smith during the team’s pre-game practice Friday afternoon at the Moro Gym inside Ateneo Campus in Quezon City.

Another possibility is replacing Smith with a backup import who reportedly is already on his way to the country as soon as his papers are finalized. The source declined to identify the potential replacement.

Smith lost his right shoe during a tussle with Ginebra guard Sol Mercado, who apparently stepped on the foot of the TNT import. Smith went back to the bench with 6:54 to play in the second period with a slight limp.

He did not return after that, and, in fact, was seen leaving the locker at the start of the fourth quarter to a waiting service vehicle.

In the first two games of the semis, the 25-year-old Smith averaged 23 points and 11 rebounds, but finished with only four points and seven rebounds in nearly 10 minutes off the bench in Game 3.

Ginebra coach Tim Cone acknowledged that the absence of Smith was one of the reasons for their win, hoping to take more advantage of the momentum and equalize the series.

“Basketball is all about opportunities. Bad things happen to the other team and you take advantage of that,” said Cone, who even shared his own experience of losing an important player in Jojo Lastimosa due to injury in the early ‘90s during a knockout game (versus Purefoods) when he was still with Alaska.