By JONAS TERRADO
TNT aims to deliver the finishing kill on San Miguel Beer while Magnolia Pambansang Manok will again attempt to do the same against Meralco Friday in Game 6 of the PBA Philippine Cup semifinals at the Don Honorio Ventura State University in Bacolor, Pampanga.
The Tropang Giga are eager to break the trend of trading victories with the Beermen as they go for the clincher in the curtain raiser set at 3 p.m. while the Hotshots try to bounce back after falling short of literally sending the Bolts home the last time in the other match at 6 p.m.
Reverting back to its habit of producing strong starts while also getting valuable contributions from the returning Kelly Williams and Poy Erram, TNT won 110-90 to regain control of the series while also closing on a third finals appearance in four conferences.
No team has produced back-to-back victories in the series, and TNT coach Chot Reyes for the nth time stressed the importance of exerting as much effort as they can.
“The only way we give ourselves a chance is by putting in excellent effort. I know we cannot play a perfect game, but as long as we put in excellent effort, then at least we give ourselves a chance,” said Reyes, who is bracing for another big adjustment from SMB.
Five straight threes during one stretch in the first quarter set the tone for a lopsided result that enabled the Tropang Giga to turn the tables on the Beermen, who took Game 4 with a 26-point triumph.
Rookie Mikey Williams broke out of a shooting slump by accounting for two of those five threes while Williams, out for the first four games due to the league’s health and safety protocols, provided the needed intangibles down low.
TNT was also glad to have Erram, who wore a protective mask after fracturing his cheekbone while diving for the looseball in Game 4, while Jayson Castro had 19 points off the bench.
SMB is expected to not roll over and die, with June Mar Fajardo, CJ Perez and Terrence Romeo tasked to play primary roles in the hopes of sending the series to a deciding seventh game on Sunday, Oct. 17.
Meanwhile, Magnolia fell short in its first crack at a third Philippine Cup Finals in the last three seasons after Meralco staved off elimination with a 102-98 victory two days ago.
Allein Maliksi’s timely shooting that resulted in 29 points aided by seven triples, Nards Pinto’s 24 and Raymond Almazan’s near double-double allowed the Bolts to succeed in the first step of trying to erase a 3-1 deficit only three teams have done.
But the Hotshots want to make sure this time that the Bolts will not be given another lifeline with the trio of Ian Sangalang, Calvin Abueva and Paul Lee playing the lead roles.