SEVERELY tested in its last two games, TNT is now up for another tough challenge.
It’s the main reason why coach Bong Ravena wants the KaTropa to display more tenacity on defense when they tackle the NorthPort Batang Pier today and stay on top of the PBA Governors Cup heap at the Astrodome.
Rain or Shine and Phoenix Pulse collide in the nightcap with both teams looking to snap out of a two-game skid, but must do so despite being not at full strength.
Elasto Painter James Yap has been ruled out for at least the next two weeks due to a recurring groin injury.
Worse off are the Fuel Masters, who already have Alex Mallari and JC Intal in the injured list and top gunner Matthew Wright a gametime decision due to a foot injury.
At first glance, TNT is heavily favored since it has so far racked up four wins in as many games while NorthPort has lost three straight and is now at 1-3.
According to Ravena, the KaTropa must fine-tune one critical facet of their game if they hope to hurdle the bristling Batang Pier.
“Defense,” stressed Ravena on the eve of the match. “We have to prevent our opponent from scoring more than 90 points.”
TNT has engaged its last two opponents in veritable shootouts before holding off Phoenix and Columbian via 123-118 and 125-120 counts, respectively.
That simply would not do, insisted Ravena. “Our last two games we were not good,” he stated. “We barely made it in our last game. We cannot play like that on defense.”
Besides, NorthPort should be more dangerous now with Sean Anthony back in harness and slowly regaining his old all-around form.
After missing the first three games due to an ankle surgery, Anthony finally suited up in the Batang Pier’s last game and tallied six points, eight rebounds and five assists in a 98-107 loss to Blackwater.
Anthony’s presence should ease some of the pressure off Mo Tautuaa, Mychal Ammons and Robert Bolick and give coach Pido Jarencio additional veteran on-court leadership and another body on TNT’s prolific import KJ McDaniels.
McDaniels has been leading all comers with an average of 34.8 points on top of 15.0 rebounds, 6.0 assists and 4.25 blocks.
Chief support for the former Houston Rocket has been provided by Roger Pogoy, Troy Rosario, Jayson Castro and Don Trollano, each averaging at least 15.25 points an outing.
With offense hardly a problem, Ravena wants his players to give equal focus on making plays on the other end of the court.
“’Yung old saying na defense wins championships,” said Ravena. “That’s why we must be on-point in making stops if we hope to at least stretch our streak.”