TNT Tropang Giga’s five-game winning streak was halted Thursday by the balanced offensive coupled with a pesky defense by the NLEX Road Warriors, 109-98, to keep the latter’s flickering hopes alive in the PBA Philippine Cup at the Smart 5G-powered AUF Sports Arena.
Kevin Alas came back strong from a halftime nose injury and put on a show in the last two quarters, finishing with 24 points, six rebounds, and three steals. Jericho Cruz found his range to provide 19 points on 7-for-10 shooting, including five triples.
With two and a half minutes left on the clock, the Yeng Guiao-coached Road Warriors maintained a nine-point lead after a long bomb from Cruz. Despite TNT’s two successive steals in a matter of seconds, cutting the deficit to just five in the process, Kiefer Ravena’s trey with 50 seconds left on the clock that practically put the final nail in Tropang Giga’s coffin.
Jericho Cruz and Kiefer Ravena also came up big, scoring 19 and 16 points, respectively.
After a calf injury, Jayson Castro led all scorers with 27 points in his return to the PBA bubble while adding eight assists and five rebounds. Even with Castro’s 18 points explosion in the first seven minutes, Tropang Giga failed to continue with their winning ways as the usual productions from Roger Pogoy and Ray Parks were missing in action.
Pogoy and Parks only manage to score 16 and 15 points, respectively, a far cry from their 24.2 and 23 points per game averages.
“I think this is the proudest I’ve been since we came in the bubble. We did a good job on defense, But I guess TNT has been playing really well in the past three weeks, and this was bound to be a bad night for them,” said Guiao, who stressed that the law of averages played a big part to their triumph over the league-leading TNT.
“We just caught them on their bad night. S’werte kami. It just so happened that we played better defense, or a little better defense, than our previous games. Those two things just combined for today. Medyo malas sila, medyo gumanda depensa namin kaya siguro natsambahan namin,” Guiao added.
NLEX got its second win in seven outings while TNT registered its first loss for a 5-1 card.
NLEX vs TNT
Quarters: 24-32 ; 53-48 ; 75-67 ; 109-98
Road Warriors (109) – Alas 24, Cruz 19, Ravena 16, Miranda 8, Ayonayon 8, Quinahan 8, Semerad 7, Soyud 6, McAloney 6, Varilla 5, Porter 2, Paniamogan 0, Ighalo 0, Galanza 0, Taulava 0.
Tropang Giga (98) – Castro 27, Pogoy 16, Parks 15, Enciso 11, Rosario 11, Erram 9, Reyes 7, De Leon 2, Carey 0, Alejandro 0, Semerad 0, Montalbo 0, Washington 0, Vosotros 0, Flores 0.