KJ MCDANIELS is on a mission and he showed it.
The former Houston Rocket carried TNT on his shoulders once again, resulting in a 103-94 victory over Meralco Sunday at the start of their PBAGovernors Cup quarterfinals series at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
McDaniels scored 33 of his gamehigh 38 points in the last three quarters and also added 14 rebounds, three assists and as many blocked shots, all the while providing the on-court leadership the KaTropa needed to gain the headstart in the best-of-five duel.
That result readily became apparent when TNT led by as much as 87-65 before easily fending off the Bolts' last-ditch uprising in the fourth quarter.
"We're glad we won because Game 1 of any series is very important," said TNT coach Bong Ravena, adding the initial result is no real gauge of how the series would go.
"Nothing to celebrate," stated Ravena. "Game 1 lang iyan, mahaba pa series."
Main source of concern for Ravena is Meralco import Allen Durham, who notched 32 points and 21 rebounds and tried to will the Bolts back into the game.
"We have to find ways to stop Durham. Iyan problema namin so gagawan pa namin paraan," said Ravena.
"Kailangan mo siyang ano talaga... ma-limit score niya," added Ravena. "If we can stop Durham mas easier para sa amin. We have to make stops, especially sa kanya."
Indeed, Allein Maliksi and Chris Newsome were the only other double-digit scorers for Meralco with the latter even being held to just two points the rest of the way after scattering 12 points in the opening quarter.
Worse off was Raymond Almazan, who went into the game averaging 14 points but scored only two. Even Baser Amer was held to only nine markers, six off his average.
No such problem nagged TNT.
Roger Pogoy added 18 points and Jayson Castro had another sterling al-around game with 17 points, eight rebounds and seven assists with both chiefly providing their import the much-needed support during a decisive breakaway in the two middle quarters.
McDaniels was at the forefront of that prolonged surge from a 39-37 count with 17 of his points while Pogoy, Castro and Bobby Ray Parks chipped in.
Behind Durham, who scored 16 of his points in the final canto, and some help coming from Maliksi, Amer and Trevis Jackson, the Bolts managed to whittle the deficit to just 85-93, still 3:24 left.
But McDaniels quickly quashed the threat by stringing up six points before Pogoy scored on a runner to stretch the difference back up to 101-89, only 61 ticks left. (NC)