(Smart Araneta Coliseum)
5:45 p.m. – TNT vs SMB
*TNT leads series, 1-0
TNT considers coach Chot Reyes’ absence as both a challenge and motivation to get the job done as it shoots for a 2-0 lead in the PBA Philippine Cup finals against San Miguel Beer (SMB) today at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Mr. Reyes left for Beirut Monday night for Gilas Pilipinas’ road assignment against Lebanon and handed the reins to assistants Sandy Arespochaga and Yuri Escueta for the 5:45 p.m. encounter.
The Tropang Giga players, themselves, are determined to step up to try to win this one for their chief strategist.
“It’s not really added pressure but added motivation,” said seasoned playmaker Jayson Castro, whose leadership has been time and again proven in high-pressure situations.
Mr. Reyes is actually going to miss a total of two games due to the Lebanon trip. But he expressed confidence his coaches and players are up to the task.
“I really spend a lot of effort and I’m very intentional in developing my coaching staff as well so in situations like these, they can step in,” said the multi-titled mentor, who also expects team manager Jojo Lastimosa and assistant coaches Ranidel de Ocampo, Bong Ravena and Mau Belen to contribute.
“They have to take the cudgels and let’s see how I prepared them,” he said.
The Tropang Giga going up against a Beermen squad is bent on picking itself up after squandering a 15-point spread and losing Game 1 on Castro’s big-time buzzer-beater, 86-84, last Sunday.
The exciting series opener, which was witnessed by a lively crowd that included Jordan Clarkson, featured a story of two halves for the protagonists. SMB controlled the initial skirmishes before TNT reversed the tide with a strong second half finishing kick.
“We need to start off better in Game 2,” said TNT gunner Mikey Williams, whose 12-point barrage in the third period sparked the Tropang Giga’s major fightback in the first match. — Olmin Leyba