Jericho Cruz showed how at home he is playing for his new team, integrating seamlessly with TNT to catapult the Katropa to the Philippine Cup playoffs and in the process, earning the PBA Press Corps Player of the Week for the period of February 26 to March 4.
Cruz, the 2016 PBA Most Improved Player stuffed up the stats sheet with 17 points, three rebounds, two assists, two steals and a block as TNT sealed the eighth and final playoff berth.
Traded by Rain or Shine to TNT in exchange rookie Sidney Onqubere, Kris Rosales and the Katropa's 2018 first round pick, Cruz quickly proved that he's an asset for his new team after averaging 17 points, 3.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 2.0 steals in their victories over NLEX and Phoenix, respectively.
TNT faced a must-win game against NLEX at the close of its elimination-round assignment, but Cruz debuted with aplomb after scoring 17 points in a starter's role, issued four assists, three rebounds and two steals as the Katropa completed a 101-75 romp.
Phoenix's narrow 104-100 win over GlobalPort and Ginebra's thrilling 100-92 triple-overtime triumph against Rain or Shine last Friday knocked Blackwater out of the playoff race, while setting up the Katropa to a do-or-die duel with the Fuel Masters for the eighth and last playoff berth.
TNT showed its readiness for the playoffs with Cruz collaborating with teammates Jayson Castro and Troy Rosario as the Katropa massacred Phoenix, 118-97 on Sunday in their knockout match at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The 27-year-old Cruz beat his TNT teammates Castro, Rosario and Kelly Williams as well as Ginebra's Japeth Aguilar for the weekly citation.
TNT's road to the all-Filipino championship though won't be easy as it faces defending three-time Philippine Cup champion San Miguel Beer on Tuesday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The Beeermen, who finished the elims with an 8-3, enjoy a twice-to-beat advantage against the Katropa.