by Waylon Galvez
Wide-bodied import Joshua Smith scored 11 of his 24 points in the fourth quarter as TNT KaTropa beat NLEX, 117-106, last night to regain a share of the lead in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Smith, playing his second game since replacing Jeremy Tyler, did most of the damage for the KaTropa when the Road Warriors were threatening to turn things around in the final frame.
He went 9-of-10 from the field and added 13 rebounds in nearly 35 minutes as TNT tied Rain or Shine for the league’s best record at 6-1.
TNT coach Nash Racela finally gave Smith heavy minutes after limited action in the KaTropa’s “We’re specific and intentional in playing Joshua’s minutes,” Racela said of Smith, who powered TNT to the finals of the same conference last season. “He’ll get used to playing longer minutes.”
Racela hopes to get Smith acclimatize to the such role with TNT set to play four more games in the elimination, including one against defending champion San Miguel on June 16.
Aside from the improved plays of Smith, Racela also cited his team’s poise when NLEX was trying to stage a comeback from being down by as many as 21 points, 51-30, early in the second period.
The Road Warriors of coach Yeng Guiao were able to pull within four, 108-104, after back-to-back triples by Alex Mallari with 3:44 left.
But Smith joined hands with Jayson Castro and new TNT recruit Terrence Romeo to put an end to NLEX’s rally.
“NLEX has been doing a decent job the last two games,” said Racela. “It’s a very tough situation for them but the way I see it they’re playing well. We had a hard time. Of course we had a good lead but they’re able to comeback.”
“But guys stepped up. We just tried doing a lot of combination, from Jayson and Terrence playing together, Tony (Semerad) playing the four (position)… that is something we’ll be needing in the future,” said Racela.
TNT 117 – Smith 24, Semerad 22, Romeo 19, Cruz 12, Pogoy 11, Castro 10, Rosario 6, Williams 5, Golla 3, Trollano 3, Garcia 2, Reyes 0, Carey 0, Paredes 0.
NLEX 106 – Moultrie 31, Mallari 15, Fonacier 14, Ighalo 11, Quiñahan 9, Taulava 6, Miranda 4, Marcelo 3, Rios 2, Soyud 2, Baguio 2, Monfort 0, Uyloan 0.
Quarters: 45-30, 63-56, 89-82, 117-106.