TNT was on a mission and pity Blackwater for being in its way.
Terrence Jones led a furious attack in the two middle quarters and the KaTropa secured a top two seeding in the next round with a cruising 115-97 victory over the hapless Elite Sunday in the PBA Commissioner's Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Troy Rosario and Jayson Castro led the locals who did their part, but it was clearly Jones who took center stage with game-highs of 36 points, 16 rebounds and 14 assists for his third triple double in the mid-season conference.
Twenty-one of the former Houston Rocket's points came in the second and third quarters, where TNT outscored Blackwater 66-43 to turn what started out as a tight contest into a lopsided one.
In the end, the tournament-leading KaTropa emerged with their seventh straight win and ninth in 10 games overall. Even if they lose their last game against Magnolia Ang Pambansang Manok next Wednesday, they would drop no lower than second since only former conqueror NorthPort, idle at 8-2, can catch up.
A top two finish in the elims is rewarded with a twice-to-beat advantage over a lower-ranked opponent in the eight-team quarterfinals.
The loss foiled Blackwater's bid to follow up its 104-99 upset win over Magnolia last Friday and dropped it to a 6-4 card.
The Elite now have to win over Alaska on Wednesday to avoid the prospect of falling into a twice-to-win disadvantage given to those teams which finish at Nos. 7 and 8.
Bobby Ray Parks bounced back from an 11-point game against Magnolia with 21 points, 10 rebounds and five assists with Mike Digregorio adding 19 points and Allein Maliksi 16 markers. Mac Belo buked foul trouble to finish the game with 10 points and nine boards.
Staphon Blair also had 16 points and as many rebounds before being put on the bench for good in the last 9:30 of the game with Blackwater down 72-95.
There was simply no hope of keeping TNT from fashioning the demolition with its more balanced scoring.
Rosario added 14 points, Castro 13 points, seven rebounds and 10 assists while Roger Pogoy, Brian Heruela and Don Trollano at least 11 each.
The KaTropa also boomed in 19 of their 47 three-point tries, were plus-20 in fastbreak points and made 43 of 92 shots overall compared to the Elite's 33-of-94 field shooting, including 8-of-31 from beyond the arc.
Winning coach Bong Ravena maintained it was his team making stops that spelled the difference. "Kita naman natin na depensa pa rin," he said.
"We played great defense for us to make a stop," added Ravena. "Basically, it's all defense. We planned to be locked in on defense, be consistent, and play hard."
Still, it was undeniable that Jones' offensive prowess was a huge factor as TNT posted two 27-point spreads, the last at 106-83 off Jones' emphatic slam.
The PBA first-timer readily gave a portent of things to come right in the first half, where he already had 21 points on a very efficient 7-of-10 shooting from the field, on top of 10 rebounds and seven assists. Eleven of those points came in the second quarter where TNT outscored Blackwater 35-20 for a 60-43 halftime bulge.
The trend continued in the third period. After Blackwater went on a 9-0 run, Jones buried two of TNT's seven triples for the canto with Rosario, Trollano and Heruela joining in. By the time the smoke cleared the KaTropa were sitting on a 91-66 cushion heading to the last 12 minutes of play. (NC)
TNT 115 - Jones 36, Rosario 14, Castro 13, Heruela 12, Pogoy 12, Trollano 11, A. Semerad 8, Magat 4, Casino 3, Taha 2, Reyes 0, Golla 0, D. Semerad 0.
Blackwater 97 - Parks 21, Digregorio 19, Maliksi 16, Blair 16, Belo 10, Sumang 4, Alolino 3, Banal 2, Dario 2, Sena 2, Desiderio 2, Cortez 0, Tratter 0, Al-Hussaini 0, Jose 0.
Quarterscores: 25-23, 60-43, 91-66, 115-97