In a clash between two battle-weary foes eager to bare their strength and might, it is the one who has the extra push, the mental fortitude and unbreakable spirit shall prevail through the fight.
TNT and San Miguel, the two best teams so far in the season-ending conference, are set for another epic collision that is expected to test each other's grit and gut in the 2023 PBA Governors’ Cup at the PhilSports Arena on Sunday, Feb. 19.
With the solo lead in the standings at stake, the Tropang Giga and Beermen, both with identical 7-1 records, hope to cap a grueling stretch in their respective elimination schedules with a resounding victory in the 6:45 p.m. affair.
Serving as a fitting appetizer to the mouth-watering duel is the showdown between the sliding Barangay Ginebra and a free-falling Blackwater in the first game at 4:30 p.m.
Despite playing every other day this week, TNT head coach Jojo Lastimosa knows that there will be no shortage of motivation for his charges especially facing up a rival that, just like them, has been lording over the competition.
“That's going to be their third straight game and for us, a fourth straight game. I'm looking forward to it. I think it's going to be a big challenge knowing San Miguel, they're also playing really, really well. We are just gonna be ready and I think the guys are ready,” said Lastimosa in the aftermath of the Tropang Giga’s 111-104 victory over the Meralco Bolts.
It was TNT’s third game in a six day span – all of which it won in dominating fashion, first a 131-109 victory over Terrafirma before a 138-116 demolition of Blackwater.
In the middle of that searing winning run is new import Rondae Hollis-Jefferson who has been living up to the billing as a legitimate NBA talent and repaying the faith of the Tropang Giga who gambled to tap him in place of steady import Jalen Hudson.
He’s also proving to be a positive impact to his team with the likes of RR Pogoy and Mikey Williams finally rediscovering their shooting touch with the former exploding for 40 points in e game against the Bossing and the latter dropping 29 against the Bolts.
On the other hand, SMB, which will also be playing its third game in six days, is also showing no signs of slowing down as after exploding for its highest scoring output in the past three decades with their 145-132 victory over NorthPort, showed grace under pressure when it denied defending champion Ginebra its patented comeback with a 102-99 escape.
“Great team also. I think we are tied in the standings so we just have to rest tomorrow and just watch the film and see what kind of offense and defense we can do about it,” said head coach Jorge Gallent who is shying away from the talks of the TNT clash being a barometer to SMB’s title drive.
“One game at a time, my friend. The title (aspirations) is there but we have to achieve a lot of more things (before) getting there,” said the veteran coach.
June Mar Fajardo, CJ Perez and Marcio Lassiter are the ones who are expected to rise into the occasion anew and provide ample support to Cameron Clark who has embraced more role on the Beermen’s offense in the past few games.