TNT shone on both ends of the court in the quarters that mattered most to handily beat Magnolia, 102-84, Wednesday and take an imposing 3-1 lead in their PBA Philippine Cup semifinals duel at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Poy Erram continued to dish out a sterling performance with 19 points and 13 rebounds in leading a balanced attack by the Tropang Giga that saw Roger Pogoy notching 18 points, Troy Rosario chipping in 15 and eight and Mikey Williams also finishing with 15 points despite going scoreless in the first half.
It was TNT's defense that paved the way for its follow-up to a 93-92 squeaker in Game 3 last Sunday, however, with Magnolia being held to just 16 points but only on a 5-for-21 field shooting.
As a result, the Tropa managed to fully break away from a 42-38 halftime lead by posting a 70-54 lead at the end of the third period before widening the gap to an insurmountable 95-72, only 4:49 left in the game.
TNT now has two chances to close out the best-of-seven series and book a return trip to the finals with another victory on Friday also at the Big Dome, although coach Chot Reyes prefers a wary approach.
"That's the most difficult win in a series, the fourth," he pointed out.
"We just have to make sure to remind them (Tropa) of it but more importantly, put them in a position to come and play their best in the next game. That's going to be determined by our rest and recovery and preparation tomorrow in practice. We just have to be extra ready for it."
Ian Sangalang's 19 points paced Magnolia, which also drew 17 points from Paul Lee and 14 from Aris Dionisio but little else from the other Hotshots, most notably Calvin Abueva, Mark Barroca and Jio Jalalon.
Abueva, in particular, made little impact on the game after being stymied by foul trouble for majority of the match, picking up his fourth and fifth fouls just 13 seconds apart late in the third period before scoring his only two points of the game off a drive in the fourth canto.
Magnolia is now hard-pressed to at least stay alive Friday, although its chances of salvaging the series are slim. Per league chief statistician Fidel Mangonon III, 54 of 58 teams which took a 3-1 lead went on to win it.
Magnolia itself helped dig the hole right in the penultimate frame when it failed to sustain its first half tenacity and practically allow TNT to make 11 of 19 shots from the field. (NC)
TNT 102 - Erram 19, Pogoy 18, M.Williams 15, Rosario 15, Castro 9, Khobuntin 9, Reyes 6, K.Williams 4, Cruz 3, Alejandro 2, Ganuelas-Rosser 2, Banal 0, Marcelo 0, Montalbo 0, Tungcab 0.
Magnolia 84 - Snagalang 19, Lee 17, Dionisio 14, Reavis 7, Barroca 5, Dela Rosa 4, Corpuz 4, Jalalon 4, Wong 4, Zaldivar 2, Abueva 2, Brill 2, Laput 0, Escoto 0, Ahanmisi 0.
Quarters: 18-15, 42-38, 70-54, 102-84