The answer as to when Magnolia Pambansang Manok can put the clamps on Mikey Williams may have to wait longer after the TNT rookie put on a performance that eclipsed his previous two games in the PBA Philippine Cup Finals.
Williams sizzled for a conference-high 39 points after knocking down 10 triples in the Tropang Giga’s 106-98 loss in Game 3 which left the Hotshots marvel at the way he’s been making his shots.
“Parang nabuhay siya para umiskor talaga e,” said Magnolia’s Paul Lee, who himself is regarded as one of the league’s best gunners.
Lee added that facing Williams has been a challenge not only for himself but for the rest of the team since the start of the finals.
Game 3 saw Williams produce the most points scored by a rookie in a finals game since Eric Menk had 42 for Tanduay in the 1999 All-Filipino Cup Finals against Shell.
His 10 threes, on the other hand, became a PBA Finals record while also resetting a 31-day-old record for most shots made from beyond the arc by a freshman in a single-game.
Calvin Oftana fired eight triples when NLEX fell 104-101 to Meralco in the eliminations last Sept. 23, also at the Don Honorio Ventura State University in Bacolor, Pampanga.
“Sobrang talented talaga ni Mikey. Credit din talaga sa kanya,” Lee said. “Pero hindi lang ako yung na-challenge eh, na-challenge yung buong team talaga sa kaniya, kahit yung coaching staff namin. Every time na makaka-shoot siya ng three points or ng big shot, sila coach Chito, yung mga coaching staff, nag-iisip sila kung paano namin malilimit si Mikey.”
That responsibility will be left for Victolero and his coaching staff to figure out now that the Hotshots have gotten the confidence going into a potential equalizer in Game 4.
Like Lee, Victolero could only marvel at Williams by saying: “He’s NBA caliber.”
“I think he played in the D-League so nakita naman natin talagang kahit anong ilagay namin e, iiscore — he loves to score. Any scheme talagang nagagawan niya ng paraan.”
Magnolia tried every trick in the book to contain Williams, using Mark Barroca, Jio Jalalon, Rome Dela Rosa, Justin Melton and even 6-foot-8 center Rafi Reavis, who is six inches taller than Williams.
“We just try to focus or maintain yung aming defensive scheme, and I think naging effective naman because we won the game,” said Victolero, “But of course, di mo na ma-stop yun e. I think ma-limit lang namin.”