Minus Chot, TNT goes for 2-0 lead

TNT aims to bury corporate rival San Miguel Beer to a 2-0 hole despite the absence of head coach Chot Reyes in Game 2 of their best-of-seven PBA Philippine Cup Finals at the Smart Araneta Coliseum on Wednesday, Aug. 24.

Jayson Castro looks to lead the way once again for TNT as Chot Reyes takes a break from PBA Finals to coach Gilas Pilipinas against Lebanon in the FIBA World Cup Asian qualifiers (PBA Images)

Tropang Giga assistant coaches Sandy Arespacochaga, Yuri Escueta, Bong Ravena and even team manager Jojo Lastimosa are expected to take the lead in the 5:45 p.m. collision against a Beermen side that is determined to bounce back from the heartbreaking Game 1 loss.

“For me as a head coach I really spend a lot of effort and I’m very intentional in developing my coaching staff so that in situations like this, they can step in,” said Reyes who already flew for Beirut, Lebanon early Tuesday morning along with the 13-man pool of Gilas Pilipinas for the fourth window on the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers.

“Coach Josh (Reyes) is in Iran in the under-18 so coach Sandy and coach Yuri are going to step forward. Boss Jolas will help as well but we also have Ranidel (de Ocampo) and Bong Ravena and coach Mau Belen so they have to take the cudgels and see how well I’ve prepared them,” he added.

Tough fightback, however, is expected from the Beermen who suffered a stinging defeat in the series opener after failing to protect a 15-point first-half lead and losing by a hairline when Jayson Castro drilled a last-gasp jumper right in the nick of time to win it for the Tropang Giga.

While Castro played the hero’s role for TNT, SMB will also have to find a way to contain the high scoring duo of RR Pogoy and Mikey Williams who were the vital cogs of the huge third quarter that turned things around for the Tropang Giga in Game 1.

Pogoy and Williams finished with 26 and 21 points, respectively.

June Mar Fajardo and CJ Perez, the two frontrunners to the Best Player of the Conference race, lived up to the billing and finished as a one-two punch for SMB with 24 and 21 points, respectively, but the vaunted depth the Beermen have been boasting ever since the start of the conference was nowhere to be found with no other player reaching twin digits in scoring.

Guys like Marcio Lassiter, Chris Ross, Jericho Cruz, Mo Tautuaa and Vic Manuel should provide support if they wish to reset the series to an equal footing and reduce it to a virtual best-of-five affair.