THE long layoff hardly affected TNT's game at all.
The Tropang Giga readily took the fight out of the NorthPort Batang Pier with a big second quarter en route to a lopsided 134-110 victory Wednesday that completed the PBA Governors' Cup's quarterfinals cast at the PhilSports Arena.
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Roger Pogoy spearheaded TNT's massive assault in the period that enabled the team to shake off the rust from PBA inaction since Feb. 19 and outscore NorthPort, 47-16, that completely turned the game's complexion around and surprised even coach Jojo Lastimosa.
"The guys picked it up," said Lastimosa. "'Yung second quarter namin, 'yung depensa namin bumalik na and then 'yung shooting namin pumapasok na. From there... I didn't even realize na we've scored 47 points in the second quarter because they were just in a groove."
Indeed, TNT made 16 of 29 shots while limiting NorthPort to just an 11-of-29 clip in the pivotal quarter before following that up with a less explosive but just as lethal 43-26 exchange in the third to stretch the difference to as much as 97-53, before going to the final canto with a 109-69 cushion.
In the end, the Tropa officially secured their seventh straight win and ninth in 10 games overall that assured them of finishing the eliminations at least at No. 2 while officially booting out NorthPort from the quarterfinals race and ushering in Phoenix Super LPG.
TNT now turns it sights to the face-off with Barangay Ginebra, currently sitting on an 8-2 slate, at eliminations end on Friday for the No. 1 spot and the right to square off with No. 8 Phoenix in the quarterfinals.
Lastimosa said it does not mean much what his team's ranking would be in the last eight. "Number 1 or number two it doesn't really matter for me," he stated.
"It's just nice to win against Ginebra but, again, it's still (just) an eliminations game. And even if we win over Ginebra it doesn't mean we would go deep in the playoffs," added Lastimosa. "What I'm trying to say is, it's just one game. Nagkataon lang na Ginebra iyon."
The loss, its eighth in 11 games, dashed NorthPort's hopes of catching Phoenix at No. 8 and playing off for the last quarterfinals ticket.
The Batang Pier actually did what coach Bonnie Tan wanted, translating their desire into game and even leading by 27-15. But that lasted only as far as the opening period before the Tropa's might asserted itself.
After missing his first six shots Hollis-Jefferson still led the onslaught with 31 points and 11 rebounds with 17 and five coming in the second quarter. Pogoy added 22 points and Calvin Oftana 16 while combining for 21 in backstopping their import in the said period.
Kevin Murphy's 35 points and 10 rebounds paced NorthPort, which also drew 19 points from Arvin Tolentino.
In what is probably his last game before strutting his wares abroad, Robert Bolick tallied 14 points, eight rebounds and six assists. (NC)
TNT 134 - Hollis-Jefferson 31, Pogoy 22, Oftana 16, K.Williams 12, M.Williams 9, Chua 8, Khobuntin 7, Tungcab 7, Montalbo 6, Ganuelas-Rosser 6, Varilla 5, Castro 2, Cruz 2, Marcelo 1, Acuno 0.
NorthPort 110 - Murphy 35, Tolentino 19, Zamar 15, Bolick 14, Munzon 10, Caperal 5, Sumang 3, Chan 3, Taha 2, Calma 2, Ayaay 2, Salado 0, Vigil 0, Balagasay 0.
Quarters: 19-27, 66-43, 109-69, 134-110