SMART Clark Giga City. - TNT seemingly caught Phoenix Super LPG by surprise their last time out.
The question of whether the Tropang Giga could continue to take the Fuel Masters off-guard or the latter would be more ready would be known Friday when they clash in the deciding Game 5 of their PBA Philippine Cup semifinals series at the Smart 5G-powered AUF Sports Arena in Angeles City.
As promised by coach Bong Ravena, TNT did come up with something new by starting Jayson Castro and Jay Washington and playing small ball for majority of the contest.
The twin moves enabled the Tropa to match the Fuel Masters' energy and get off to a good start, leading to a wire-to-wire 102-101 decision that tied the best-of-five series at two games apiece.
Castro lived up to Ravena's expectations by scoring 17 of his 21 points in the first half before Ray-Ray Parks fully took over by scattering 25 of his game-high 36 points in the second half, including 17 in the final canto that mainly kept Phoenix at bay.
Washington, meanwhile, finished with five rebounds and three blocks, in anchoring TNT's inside defense that also pleased Ravena.
That doesn't mean the Tropa have given up on main big men Poy Erram and Troy Rosario even if the two struggled mightily in Game 4.
"Naniniwala pa rin naman kami kay Poy, kay Troy. Alam namin lalabas din 'yan, lalabas din laro nila," said Ravena, before stressing the two should deliver what the team relies on the most.
"They have to be consistent, especially on defense," said Ravena. "Our points, our offense, is really Ray-Ray, who can shoot, Jayson. We have no problem with our offense. Basically, it's our defense that really counts."
After the game, Parks dedicated his game to his late father, former seven-time Best Import awardee Bobby Parks Sr., who would have been 59 Thursday.
Actually, Phoenix needs no major re-alignment in its game plan, just some fine-tuning.
Matthew Wright almost matched Parks' output with 34 points of his own on top of nine assists and Calvin Abueva, Jason Perkins, Justin Chua and RJ Jazul did their part. But the expected usual contributions from the likes RR Garcia, Alex Mallari, JC Intal and Brian Heruela did not come. (NC)