Despite lopsided opener, coach Chot not letting guard down in best-of-seven series

Published October 21, 2021, 12:04 AM

by Jonas Terrado

Photo from PBA

TNT coach Chot Reyes said there’s no reason to believe that its massive opening act will be a sign of things to come in the PBA Philippine Cup Finals showdown with Magnolia Pambansang Manok.

The Tropang Giga rolled to an 88-70 win in the series opener held Wednesday, Oct. 20 at the Don Honorio Ventura State University in Bacolor, Pampanga, but Reyes said the lessons of their semifinal win over the San Miguel Beermen should serve as a reminder.

It would be recalled the TNT-SMB semis clash saw lopsided results in the last five games, including the 97-79 win in the deciding seventh game that sent Reyes and company to the PBA’s biggest stage.

“These things happen. We know this, of all people,” Reyes said. “We’ve been on the receiving end of this as well in our previous game against San Miguel. These things really happen.

“Whether you lose by a big margin or by a point, it’s still 1-0. So for us, all we’ve done is get the first game. We have to now focus our energy to prepare for Game 2.”

TNT went on a 20-2 start before leading by a high of 32 points in the third to stun a Magnolia side that was coming off a five-day rest following its triumph over Meralco in the other semis duel that ended in six games.

Magnolia was anemic right from the onset and eventually left the DHVSU campus pondering on its 28-percent shooting coupled with the 28 turnovers it committed.

For TNT, it was able to pick up where it left off in Game 7 with rookie guard Mikey Williams going for 21 points after spending most of the semis trying to shake off SMB’s tough defending.

There were some mild changes in the starting lineup, with pesky guard Kib Montalbo taking advantage of the opportunity by scoring the game’s first five points while Kelly Williams was once again effective with 10 points and six rebounds before going down with a back injury.

RR Pogoy had only seven points after firing 27 the last time but he was still effective for the Tropang Giga, so were Poy Erram, Troy Rosario, Jayson Castro and Ryan Reyes.

“We’ve been on playoff mode already for eight games so we approached it as just that,” the TNT mentor said. “(Game 1) was no different. We wanted to make sure that our focus, our energy, our preparation was according to the rhythm that we have established, and our only concern now is to get better.

“We wanted to be better in the finals than we were in the semifinals. Because I thought that if we just come into the finals and just put in the same game as we did in the semis, then we’re going to be in trouble.”