Nov 30, 2023

NorthPort-TNT duel: Two teams trying to get back on winning track

NORTHPORT wants nothing more than not to let its early gains go to waste.

For sure, the Batang Pier would be hard-pressed to translate that mindset into game for they are up against a TNT side eager to do its own big rebound Friday in the PBA Commissioner's Cup at the PhilSports Arena.

The Tropang Giga are coming off a 95-109 loss to Meralco last Sunday that cut short their two-game roll and dropped them to an even 2-2 record.

More alarming, at least for coach Bonnie Tan, is his team's two-game skid that negated its 2-0 start to the season-opening conference.

"Sinasabi ko nga sa players na nabigyan na kami ng puhunan, pero hindi kami makakapasok sa playoffs ng dadalawang panalo lang," said Tan on Thursday, while stressing that it's now a case of his charges re-thinking their attitude.

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Game time is 4 p.m.

"Sa ngayon kasi hindi na masyadong importante ang gameplan, ang X's and O's," maintained Tan. "It's more on how you approach the game and play it. Dapat ipakita naming mas hardworking kami. We must outwork them, outrun them, outhustle them."

A little fine-tuning on offense is only needed for the Batang Pier who went 2-of-19 from beyond the arc and muffed 14 free throw tries in a 104-112 loss to NLEX last Nov. 22.

"Tapos may iniinda pala ang import (Venky Jois) during that game, 'yung hamstring niya," rued Tan. "Final check-up niya mamaya so we'll see."

Whether Jois has recovered enough to see action is a smaller concern compared to NorthPort's bigger problem, which is containing TNT's prolific import Rondae Hollis-Jefferson.

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Hollis-Jefferson is coming off a tournament-high 47-point performance against the Bolts, jacking his tournament average to 32.67 points, on top of 9.67 rebounds and 4.3 assists, an outing.

"We are well aware of the strength of RHJ, so we really have to prepare for him," said Tan. "The basic gameplan is to limit him."

But there's more. Calvin Oftana is also sure to bounce back from a mediocre game against Meralco, when he shot just 2-of-11 from the field and wound up with only four points. Jayson Castro is also sure to have momentum after scoring 19 against the Bolts.

Tan remains optimistic. "If we can play 5-on-5 defense the entire 48 minutes, our chances would be so much the better," he said. (NC)