Josh Smith is punishing San Miguel Beer badly in the limited minutes he’s playing.
And he’s likely to be main focus of coach Leo Austria’s adjustments in the
continuation of the TNT KaTropa-San Miguel slugfest at the Smart Araneta Coliseum Friday.
By 12 noon Thursday, the PBA Commissioner’s Office still didn’t receive notice of import change from the TNT camp. It means Smith will play on in Game Two of the Commissioner’s Cup best-of-seven series that started with a 104-102 triumph by the Ka Tropa on a last-gasp basket by Smith Wednesday night.
The Ka Tropa are determined to march on while the Beermen are eager to fight back in Game Two, with tip-off set at 7 p.m.
To many, the down-to-the-wire finish of Game One could be indication of how the series will go.
“It came down to the last shot. It’s going to be tough games. It’s gonna be whoever team that crawls it out, grinds it out,” said Smith. “I’m glad we’re the first team to get the first win so we’re three steps closer.”
The Beermen were unfazed by the Game One defeat, with coach Leo Austria pointing out the breaks just went TNT’s way in the end.
“We fought hard but we came up short because of Smith’s last shot,” Austria said.
“We had a hard time preparing for the game because we didn’t know who would be their import. Now that we know, we can devise defense to limit him and of course their perimeter shooters surrounding Smith,” Austria also said.
The SMB bench chieftain also mentioned their woeful shooting and their tons of turnovers.
“Maasim,” said Austria of their 6-of-29 three-point shooting. Their No. 1 marksman Marcio Lassiter didn’t make even one from six attempts.
“We couldn’t get the ball to our big men because we’re not making our outside shots. We should concentrate on post offense. We’ve won a lot of games on that,” said Austria.
The Beermen won the rebounding battle, 58-52, but turned the ball over 23 times, six more than those of the Texters.
“Ang laking bagay non. In fact, first half pa lang may 19 points na sila on our turnovers,” said Austria.
TNT coach Nash Racela said they have to be ready for San Miguel’s adjustments.
With Smith wreaking havoc at the post and the TNT gunners making their shots, the Ka Tropa set the pace most of Game One.
They can be more lethal if Ranidel de Ocampo will be able to return in the next game. De Ocampo was out with a slight fever Wednesday.
Hobbling and all, Josh Smith stepped up and got TNT KaTropa past reigning Philippine Cup three-peat champ San Miguel Beer, 104-102, at the start of the PBA Commissioner’s Cup Finals at the Smart Araneta Coliseum Wednesday night.
The wide-bodied TNT import continued to play through pain, delivering 21 points, including the game-winner that gave the Texters the crucial head-start in the best-of-seven championship series.
Smith nailed a semi-hook off June Mar Fajardo shortly before the buzzer, and the Texters survived the condition of their hurting import plus the absence of Ryan Reyes and Ranidel de Ocampo on their own health woes.
The TNT reinforcement’s status remains a game-day decision in Game Two at 7 p.m. Friday also at the Big Dome.
TNT coach Nash Racela said Smith’s presence of mind saved the night for them.
“I screwed up in the last play. San Miguel did a good job denying Jayson (Castro) the ball. It’s really good Josh had that presence of mind to get the ball and attack June Mar. He had no choice but to create and he did,” said Racela.
“It’s always crucial to get the first win. Doing it without Ryan and Ranidel and with Josh not 100 percent, that’s something that’s very important. It means the other guys delivered well tonight,” Racela also said.
Castro and RR Pogoy also had big games as they engaged the Beermen in a duel of spurts that went down the wire at the finish.
Pogoy fired 5-of-9 three-pointers and a career-best total of 27 points while Castro came up with a near triple-double performance with 14 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds.
After Smith broke the 102-all count, the Beermen found no more opportunity to tie or salvage the game.
“For me, Game One is very important. We wanted this, but the breaks didn’t go our way.
We worked hard but came up short,” said SMB coach Leo Austria.
“We have less than 24 hours to realize what’s going on, but definitely we’ll make the adjustments,” Austria added.
The Texters cranked up on offense in the second period, hitting at a 52-percent clip to race ahead, 56-51, at the half.
From a nine-point deficit late in the first period, the Texters posted a couple of eight-point margins in the second period before settling for a five-point halftime lead.
Alex Cabagnot came through with a three-point play of Kris Rosales with two seconds to go as the Beermen made the game closer going into the final half.
Charles Rhodes pumped in back-to-back treys then finished an attack on a thunderous jam as SMB posted an early nine-point lead at 31-22.
But then Smith had his own binge to spark the TNT turnaround in the second quarter.
Rhodes had collected 21 points and six rebounds while Smith had had 14 markers and three boards by the half. (SB)
A duel of giants between Josh Smith and June Mar Fajardo will unfold after all.
Their marquee matchup will be among the top focal points as TNT KaTropa and San Miguel Beer begin their PBA Commissioner’s Cup Finale at the Smart Araneta Coliseum Wednesday.
After all the necessary medical tests on Smith, TNT decided to stick with the jumbo import at least in the opener of their best-of-seven title showdown – a faceoff between two dynasties slugging it out for a date with destiny.
Mike Myers will remain confined behind the TNT bench while the team observes the condition of Smith on a day-to-day basis.
Understandably, the team will deal with so many adjustments if they’re to field a new import now.
Observers say the Beermen will be the outstanding favorite if the Texters ditch Smith.
If Smith stays and plays his usual game, some coaches foresee a slam-bang battle.
“If they change their import, it’s a matter of adjustments,” said GlobalPort coach Franz Pumaren.
“San Miguel has an import that is tailor-made for them. He can score, he can rebound and he can defend. Then they have June Mar Fajardo who also plays like an import,” Pumaren noted.
The GlobalPort bench tactician said the TNT import should at least match up with the SMB reinforcement for the Texters to have a chance to win the series.
During the pre-finals press conference Monday, Smith declared he’s ready to play and determined to help TNT achieve its goal of reclaiming the Commissioner’s Cup crown it has held twice in 2011 and 2015.
Smith and Fajardo have yet to face each other on the floor.
Fajardo was on loan to Gilas Pilipinas while Smith had yet to complete his commitment with his NBA D-League team when the Texters topped the Beermen, 112-103, in their elims tiff.
“Okay ‘yan, si Smith ang gamitin nila. Lalong mai-injure yan defending June Mar,” said an SMB insider, noting the shiftiness of the San Miguel star center.
On the end, the question is whether Fajardo can cope with the 350-pound weight of Smith.
Charles Rhodes, meanwhile, is likely to be pitted versus Kelly Williams.
Rhodes averages 27.38 points, 10.19 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.7 blocks and 1.2 steals while Smith norms 20.78 points, 12.3 rebounds and 2.5 assists.
Fajardo (15.6), Alex Cabagnot (15.1), Chris Ross (13.19) and Arwind Santos (10.5) are four local SMB players who average in double figures.
Jayson Castro (16.8), RR Pogoy (12.1), Ranidel De Ocampo (9.94) and Williams (8.17), meanwhile, are TNT’s leading local threats.
The 2017 PBA Commissioner’s Cup comes down to a showdown between two dynasties slugging it out in a finale for the first time in six years.
San Miguel Beer looks to stretch its perfect ride in PBA Finals in the last three years while TNT KaTropa, a team on the rise under a young promising coach, hopes to be back right on top after a five-conference title drought.
Even with TNT is still uncertain on the import it’s fielding in the finale, a slam-bang battle looks well in the offing.
The Beermen and the Texters begin their best-of-seven title showdown at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
“Sobra na, tama na, KaTropa naman,” said TNT team manager Virgil Villavicencio to stress their desire to end the Beermen’s reign.
“Hindi nakakasawang mag-champion. Lagi namin asam ito,” said San Miguel Beer forward Arwind Santos, for their part, during the pre-finals press conference at Sambokojin Restaurant in Eastwood, Quezon City.
The Beermen are in their 38th finals, gunning for a 24th crown while the Texters are in their 17th championship series, chasing an eighth title.
San Miguel’s is also on track for a possible grand slam, a feat the team has achieved in 1989 with a team led by PBA all-time greats Mon Fernandez, Ricky Brown, Samboy Lim and Hector Calma.
The Beermen are four-of-four in finals since the 2014 Philippine Cup under coach Leo Austria.
For the Texters, one top motivation is to avenge a championship series loss to the Beermen that foiled their own grand slam bid in 2011.
They had their earlier best-of-seven playoff in the last Philippine Cup semifinals.
The Texters lost that series -- allowing the Beermen to go to the finals and eventually win the crown versus the Barangay Ginebra Kings – as main man Jayson Castro went down with a hamstring injury in Game Six.
Curiously, TNT is again facing a big health concern going into this title showdown.
At posting time, the team was still awaiting clearance by doctors for their injury-hit import. If he’s not cleared to play, the Texters will battle the Beermen with substitute import Mike Myers.
“I’m just taking it day-by-day but two days of rest has helped and like I’ve said I’m ready to play,” said Smith. “I came here with one goal – to help TNT win the championship.”
Uncertainty of the status of the 350-pound TNT import makes it difficult for both teams to figure each other out.
“We don’t know whom we’re preparing for. We may be preparing for Josh Smith and it would turn out that we would face Myers. So we can really figure them out only after Game One,” said SMB coach Leo Austria.
“One thing for sure, we’re facing a team that is well disciplined in what they do. Jayson Castro can make a pass with his eyes closed and for sure there’s a man on the spot that he’s passing the ball. That’s how disciplined TNT is on coach Nash Racela’s plays,” Austria also said. “And they’re dangerous with their shooters.”
Needless to say, the Beermen, the reigning all-Filipino three-peat champs, have lethal weapons on all spots.
The two teams are only expected to go hammer and tongs at each other.
Jayson Castro dished off import-like numbers in a game TNT just refused to lose to secure the Katropa’s return stint to the PBA Finals for the first time in 2 seasons.
With bulky TNT import Joshua Smith playing through a torn ligament on his right foot, the 5-8 Castro took charge on Saturday, firing 38 points, dishing off 11 assists and grabbing 7 rebounds to eliminate Barangay Ginebra, 122-109 and complete a 3-1 semifinal series win in the process.
The 30-year-old Castro was at his best in the fourth period when he knocked down 10 of his team’s 17 points down the stretch to break the hearts of the Kings and their legion of fans.
More importantly, the win sealed TNT’s entry in the mid-season conference Finals where it is set to face San Miguel Beer starting Wednesday.
The “Blur’s” awe-inspiring effort earned him the PBA Press Corps Player of the Week for the period of June 13-18, nosing out San Miguel veterans June Mar Fajardo, Alex Cabagnot and Chris Ross for the weekly citation.
The Katropa are back in the championship round and will try to end a two-year title drought, having won their last PBA crown in the 2015 Commissioner’s Cup behind flamboyant import Ivan Johnson.