Mar 21, 2023

Lastimosa eyes short route to semis, but expects TNT to face tough challenge against Phoenix

COACH Jojo Lastimosa wants his TNT squad to make short work of Phoenix Super LPG Friday at the start of their PBA Governors' Cup quarterfinals duel at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Still, Lastimosa is a realist enough to know that the possibility of the best-of-three match-up getting extended the full route exists, so he has braced his team accordingly.

"That's the grand plan," said Lastimosa, referring to his Tropang Giga not letting their win-once advantage go to waste, a reward they earned for topping the eliminations.

"But for me, personally, we have to be also prepared for anything," added Lastimosa. "Kumbaga, hope for the best, prepare for the worst."

Indeed, Phoenix is sure to come out with all cylinders firing so as to negate its No. 8 ranking, offset its twice-to-win handicap and force a decider.

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Lastimosa knows fully well what the Fuel Masters' main weapons are. "Phoenix... it's always their defense. They try to get you uncomfortable by playing their defense," was how he started to put it.

"Of course, we also have to watch out for their shooters, sila Tyler (Tio), RR (Garcia), RJ Jazul and si Jason (Perkins) who can play inside-outside so they have materials. Of course, si (Du'vaughn) Maxwell, who is unselfish and fits the system of coach Jamike (Jarin). And then (Encho) Serrano, who is their spark off the bench. We have to make sure that Serrano would not have a rhythm against us."

Lastimosa also revealed his team's preparations basically started from the inside. "We need to approach this like any other game, malakas man sila o mahina," he said. "The only difference is, this is the quarterfinals."

Stoking Lastimosa's optimism is his own well-stocked arsenal filleed with experienced players, who he expects to ease the Tropa into the best-of-five semifinals where they would meet the winner of the other quarterfinals pairing between Meralco and Magnolia.
"May mga beterano there, sila Jayson (Castro), Kelly (Williams), Roger (Pogoy). They've been around," noted Lastimosa. "It's a luxury that I have those guys."

A welcome addition is also up with Poy Erram set to finally see action for the first time following a pre-conference procedure on his knee.
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"Poy will be suiting up, but he would be under minutes restriction," related Lastimosa. "Susubukan lang kung kailangan." (NC)