July 26, 2022

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Twice-to-beat teams SMB, TNT eye shorter route to semifinals

FOR top seed San Miguel Beer (SMB) and No. 2 TNT, it’s time to reap the fruits of all their hard work throughout the eliminations and mad dash for the two coveted quarterfinal incentives.

With fresher legs and a shorter route to the PBA Philippine semifinals, the twice-to-beat Beermen seek to advance straightaway with a victory against eighth-ranked Blackwater in tonight’s 6 p.m. main game at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

The Tropang Giga carry the same mission against No. 7 Converge at 3 p.m. as they try to take the next step in their title-retention bid.

The odds may be in their favor but TNT coach Chot Reyes said they should be on their toes against the tough league debutants. In their lone meeting in the elims, the Tropang Giga needed Jayson Castro’s late heroics to pull off an 86-83 escape act against the upset-conscious FiberXers.

“Iyung effort namin in our game in the elimination round, it’s not going to be enough come the playoffs,” said Mr. Reyes. “So iyun ang focus talaga namin, we have to raise the level of our game.”

He noted Converge’s strong offensive rebounding and fastbreak game as among the major areas to address for the Tropang Giga to stop the FiberXers from forcing a deciding game.

“They’re a big team and well-distributed ang minutes nila so mapapalaban kami nang husto nito,” said Mr. Reyes. “We have to keep them off the glass, stop them sa fastbreak and also important, at least ma-match yung energy nila.”

It’s been 17 days since TNT’s last outing and the break allowed Troy Rosario and Brian Heruela to recover from their respective injuries and get ready for the playoffs.

Meanwhile, rejuvenated June Mar Fajardo and the Beermen look to continue their climb back to the summit and standing in their way is a Bossing team bent on saving a sputtering redemption campaign and extending its redemption tour.

The Bossing made the playoffs again after their league-worst 29-game losing streak. But after a promising 5-1 start, they spiraled to five successive losses to find themselves paired with mighty SMB.

“Still positive. Sabi ko nga sa team, we’re four games better than last conference (1-10 in the Governors’ Cup). We’re in the playoffs, we’re not dead,” said Blackwater mentor Ariel Vanguardia. “But we have to put our acts together against San Miguel.” — Olmin Leyba