Ryan Reyes’ vintage performance epitomized why almost all of TNT’s supporting cast came through in the 106-89 win over Magnolia Pambansang Manok that put them one step closer towards capturing the PBA Philippine Cup crown.
Reyes, a silent contributor on both ends throughout the finals, rediscovered the old form that made him one of the key figures in TNT’s past title runs by producing 10 points and four steals off the bench.
All of his steals came in the final minutes of the second quarter, two of which led to transition layups, as the Tropang Giga took a 57-39 lead at the half.
“Just given the opportunity to play, especially playing for coach Chot (Reyes), just the all-out confidence, the trust that he gives us, it just makes us go out there and play hard,” said Reyes, who set a PBA record 10 steals during the title-clinching Game 5 against Powerade in the 2012 Philippine Cup.
This year’s batch of TNT players are on the cusp of giving Chot Reyes his first PBA crown since that triumph after numerous players delivered in lieu of rookie Mikey Williams producing quietly in the first half.
Kib Montalbo joined hands with Reyes with shots that helped set up the latter’s vital role in the victory.
Montalbo bounced back from limited minutes despite being placed in the starting lineup in Game 3, scoring eight points including five straight to start off a 13-2 run that made a 31-29 lead into 44-31.
The sophomore guard also show up with his pesky defending during his 12-minute appearance.
Brian Heruela took Montalbo’s place in the starting five and was also key for TNT. He finished with nine points in almost 17 minutes in another steady job that has been his norm in the championship series.
Backup center Dave Marcelo, who was expected to play more minutes with Troy Rosario and Kelly Williams enduring injuries, also stepped up with 10 points and five rebounds to give the Tropang Giga a boost.
Their efforts once again eased up the load of TNT’s main players like Mikey Williams, who wound up finishing with 26 points after sizzling from long range in the second half, Jayson Castro (12 points), RR Pogoy and Erram (both with nine points apiece).
“There’s no such thing as bench for us. We all have guys ready to play when the occasion arises,” said Chot. “For example, Dave didn’t even play in Game 2 or Game 1 in the series, but that never let him down. That never got him down. And that’s just the way this team is constructed.
“We have players and they know when the need arises they’re going to get the call. And I just keep reminding them, stay ready. And Ryan does a great job as well in constantly talking and communicating with them and keeping them ready. It’s not all me. Certainly, the leaders, Ryan and Jayson, have a lot to do with it,” he added.
The TNT coach could only hope that the trend continues in Game 5 when the Tropang Giga take a crack at their first championship since 2015.
“Hopefully, we can just get that going because we know the other team, they’ll make adjustments,” said Reyes. “They’ll shut down the things that we want to do. They’ll shut down our main guys, and so that’s the opportunity for others to step forward.”