THE Mikey Williams puzzle continues to baffle Magnolia.
Just like in their semi-bubble finals of the same tournament in Bacolor, Pampanga last year Williams again provided the scoring sock TNT needed in fashioning a 108-96 mauling of the Hotshots Wednesday at the start of their PBA Philippine Cup semifinals duel at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The reigning scoring champion scattered 18 of his game-high 26 points in the first half, including 12 in the second period that saw the Tropang Giga stretch their lead to as much as 47-30 before going on to complete the wire-to-wire win in the best-of-seven series opener.
Despite the relatively one-sided contest, TNT coach Chot Reyes didn't put too much weight on it, knowing Magnolia is sure to bounce back hard in Game Two set Friday also at the Big Dome.
"We're pretty sure they're going to come up with something different the next time and it's upon us to be ready for it and to prepare ourselves for it," said Reyes. "This is just one win and we're preparing for a long series."
Williams also finished with five rebounds, and four assists and got plenty of help as Roger Pogoy produced 23 points and five assists, while Glenn Khobuntin came off the bench to contribute 18 points and seven rebounds.
Jayson Castro finished with 12 markers, including the bucket that pushed their lead to the game's biggest at 84-60, late in the third canto.
The points allowed were the most given up by Magnolia in the conference and while the Hotshots' vaunted defense was repeatedly shredded their offense also suffered.
Calvin Abueva paced Magnolia with 18 points and eight boards and fellow frontliners Ian Sangalang and Aris Dionisio added 14 points each. But the trio of Paul Lee, Mark Barroca and Jio Jalalon could not get any rhythm going until the game has gotten out of hand.
Lee and Jalalon could not even buy a field goal until the third period with the former winding up with nine points, almost six below his average, and the latter finishing with 14 but only on a 5-of-12 field shooting.
Despite its struggles Magnolia still managed to trim the deficit when Jalalon, James Laput and Dionisio led the team back to within 86-99.
TNT, however, easily shrugged off the threat with Troy Rosario and Pogoy slicing through for layups that made it a 105-90 count which proved safe enough going to the last 3:07 of play.
TNT 108 - M. Williams 26, Pogoy 23, Khobuntin 18, Castro 12, Montalbo 8, Erram 6, K.Williams 4, Marcelo 4, Tungcab 3, Rosario 2, Ganuelas-Rosser 2, Alejandro 0, Cruz 0.
Magnolia 96 - Sangalang 14, Abueva 18, Jalalon 14, Dionisio 14, Laput 12, Lee 9, Barroca 7, Dela Rosa 5, Wong 2, Reavis 1, Zaldivar 0, Corpuz 0.
Quarters: 28-19, 54-37, 86-66, 108-96