Nov 25, 2022

SMB vs TNT: All-Filipino finalists now fighting for survival

FIGHTING for the crown in the last conference, San Miguel Beer and TNT fight for survival this time.

The Beermen, at least, are on the fringes of the Top 8, but the Tropang Giga are on the brink of elimination as they clash in a virtual playoff match in their penultimate outing in the PBA Commissioner's Cup elimination round at the PhilSports Arena in Pasig Saturday.

Another advantage for the Beermen is the fact that they're back in full force on the return of June Mar Fajardo and Terrence Romeo (at least he's back in uniform) while Jayson Castro seems out for the conference for TNT with a sprained ankle.

At 5-5, the Beermen try to improve their position while the Tropang Giga, at 4-7, fight for dear life in their 6:45 p.m. dispute.

"We have to beat San Miguel and even then, di pa rin namin hawak ang fate namin," said coach Chot Reyes whose TNT troops are suddenly a hard luck squad after stellar showings in the last three conferences, topped by their successful run in the all-Filipino Bacolor bubble.

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They have to sweep their last two games against San Miguel and Meralco to have a shot probably just at the last eighth playoff spot.

The Beermen, meanwhile, are back in the mix, pumping life on their bid with a 131-103 disposal of the Lester Prosper-less Terrafirma team Wednesday.

Back from his throat surgery, Fajardo netted 20 points to back up Jericho Cruz' 25 and Devon Scott's 21-19-11 triple-double in the crucial victory.

The SMB coaches were hardly surprised by Fajardo's solid showing, saying he's his dominant self in practices in the last two weeks.

And he could be a big, big problem for the Tropang Giga as he may already be set for longer minutes.

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Interim coach Jorge Gallent is confident they came make a big run in the closing stage of the elims for as long as they don't relax and instead focus on playing 48 minutes of hard basketball.

From Gallent, the marching order is to "go hard."

"Even if we lead by 26 points, we have to keep going and keep playing," said Gallent. (SB)