LEADER TNT regained the fiery form it started the tournament with to drub NorthPort 112-87 yesterday and become the first team to advance to the PBA Philippine Cup at the Smart 5G-powered AUF Sports Arena in Angeles City.
The Tropang Giga used a balanced offensive to continuously apply the heat from the first quarter on and lead by as many as 36 points before completing their bounce-back from a loss their last time out and jacking their record to 6-1 overall.
Rayray Parks’ 22 points and 10 rebounds and Troy Rosario’s double-double of 14 and 10 were the top highlights for TNT, which now shifts its sights to clinching a top four slot at the end of the 11-game eliminations and get rewarded with a twice-to-beat advantage in the next round.
The loss dropped NorthPort to a 1-5 slate and the Batang Pier now needs to win at least four of their last five eliminations assignments to entertain chances of tying for the last quarterfinals spot.
Despite sitting out the entire fourth quarter in anticipation of the game against Ginebra tonight, Christian Standhardinger still led NorthPort with 15 points and 12 boards.
Earlier, streaking San Miguel Beer banked on another big game from Mo Tautuaa and Chris Ross’ heroics in overtime to nip Blackwater 90-88 and move closer to a quarterfinals berth.
Matthew Wright sizzled for 33 points and Calvin Abueva notched a triple-double as Phoenix fashioned a 116-94 romp over hard-luck Terrafirma to fan its own hopes of inclusion among the top eight.
Tautuaa had a double-double of 26 points and 14 rebounds to lead the defending champion Beermen, who won for the fourth straight time to jack their record to 5-2, needing just another victory to formalize their inclusion in the last eight.
As huge in the win was Ross, who finished with only eight points and as many rebounds, but scored five of his points in the extension. His last lay-up pushed SMB in front for good 89-88, with 1:14 to go.
“At least ‘yung isang paa namin nasa quarterfinals na,” said SMB coach Leo Austria, who lauded his players for quickly adjusting to the unfamiliar situation of playing the league’s first morning game, the opener of the first PBA playdate with four games on tap.
“Good thing the players responded because they know the importance of this game,” Austria said.
Wright sparked the Fuel Masters’ decisive breakaway in the third quarter before fueling the sustaining fire in the fourth that turned what started out as a close game into a rout.
Abueva also left his imprint on Phoenix’s fifth win in eight games by finishing with 12 points, 10 rebounds and as many assists.
The loss, its sixth in as many games, pushed Terrafirma deeper in the cellar and it now needs to win all its last five games to at least tie for the eighth and last quarterfinals spot.
CJ Perez had 32 points, nine rebounds and five assists, but again was the lone bright spot for the Dyip.
Blackwater still had a chance to salvage the game when it regained possession in the last 24 seconds. But Ron Dennison and Don Trollano missed their respective tries before Von Pessumal sealed the final count with a charity, only 4 ticks left.
Ed Daquioag led Blackwater with 20 points, including a booming three that knotted the count at 84-all and eventually forced extra period when Alex Cabagnot and Diego Dario fired blanks in the dying seconds of regulation.
After losing their third straight the Elite slipped to 2-4 and must win at least four of their last five outings to entertain hopes of advancing. It would take a lot of doing.
It was not the kind of grind-out game Blackwater would have wanted as it has been scheduled to play six games in nine days and coach Nash Racela meant to have his main men leave plenty in their tanks for their match against Meralco today.
Mac Belo sat out the game due to an unspecified injury, while Paul desiderio has been sent packing to receive treatment for his injured leg in Manila.
After getting an additional day-off, the four other teams resume their own campaign starting today in another quadruple header.
Rain or Shine and NLEX tangle in the opener with the Elasto Painters determined to notch a second straight win and keep their second-running spot and the Road Warriors equally bent on continuing their rise from the cellar.
Magnolia is also gunning for a second straight win that would boost it to 3-4, but is expected to have its hands full against TNT.
Also bidding to stay alive is NorthPort, which takes on Ginebra in the nightcap.