TNT gave Meralco a dose of its own medicine, putting the clamps on the Bolts in carving out a 99-80 win for the pivotal 2-1 lead in their PBA Governors' Cup best-of-five semifinal faceoff Wednesday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Tropang Giga buckled down to work right at the start, holding the Bolts to a miserable 10-of-40 field-goal shooting in erecting a 26-point lead, 56-30, at the half.
The Bolts trimmed the gap in the third but not close enough to get into the game against a TNT side with a burning desire for a turnaround from a sorry 124-117 overtime loss the last time.
Focused on that goal, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and his teammates played with their hearts out and pulled off a blowout that sent them to the brink of the best-of-seven title playoff.
"We kept the faith and we stayed focused on the task," said Hollis-Jefferson, putting in 40 points and 13 rebounds to lead TNT to the go-ahead win in the race-to-three-games series.
The two teams clash again at 5:45 p.m. Friday at the Big Dome, with the Tropa taking a shot at an explosive title playoff versus the Barangay Ginebra Kings.
Justin Brownlee and Co. claimed the first seat in the finale with an 87-85 win over San Miguel Beer earlier in the night.
The Gin Kings got a crack at a three-peat in the season-ending conference with a three-game semis sweep of the San Miguel Beermen.
Then the Tropa took care of their own business and moved on the verge of a Last Dance stint with the Kings
"We stayed locked-in for 48 (minutes this time). Though we had a couple of mental lapses in the fourth, we found a way to pull through," said Mikey Williams, backing up Hollis-Jefferson with a 29-point sizzler.
Coach Jojo Lastimosa said they embraced the belief that they can also be a defensive grind-out team like the Bolts.
"In Game 2, we threw away defensive techniques. Tonight, we fought them in a defensive battle," said Lastimosa whose chargers led by as many as 26 as they held the Bolts to 30 markers in the first half.
Offensively, Hollis-Jefferson and Williams led the way with 24 and 13 points, respectively, in the first 24 minutes of play.
And both refused to slow down.
"I definitely wanted to be assertive after being a bit gun shy last time," said Williams. (SB)
TNT 99 - Hollis-Jefferson 40, M.Williams 29, Pogoy 7, Castro 7, Oftana 4, Erram 4, Khobuntin 3, Montalbo 3, Chua 2, Varilla 0, Ganuelas-Rosser 0.
Meralco 80 - McDaniels 30, Newsome 12, Black 11, Hodge 11, Maliksi 4, Almazan 3, Caram 3, Pasaol 3, Jose 2, Quinto 1, Banchero 0, Pascual 0.
Quarters: 30-15, 56-30, 75-59, 99-80