Mar 23, 2023

TNT-Meralco sibling duel: Offense vs defense

IT'S a pair of Sister Act semifinal showdowns, but this side of battle can well be called many other names.

Ringing out loud is it being Offense versus Defense.

TNT and Meralco clash in a rematch of their 2019 PBA Governors' Cup semifinal duel -- a battle with the same landscape as before with the Tropang Giga killing opponents with their offensive firepower and the Bolts thriving with their defensive skill.

As the league's top offensive team averaging 118 points a game, the Tropang Giga are the playoffs top seeds, riding the momentum of a nine-game winning streak going to the 5:45 p.m. series opener Friday at the Ynares Sports Center in Antipolo.

The Bolts, meanwhile, are the top defensive team, their efforts fueled by a burning desire for the elusive breakthrough championship.

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TNT is likely to be without Kelly Williams for the entire best-of-five series, but coach Jojo Lastimosa is optimistic they still can match up well with the Bolts and sees good chance at making the finals versus the winner of the Barangay Ginebra-San Miguel Beer finale.

Dave Marcelo and the returning Poy Erram are filling in for Williams who went down with a calf injury early in their quarterfinals conquest of the Phoenix Super LPG Fuel Masters Wednesday.

But surely, they won't lack firepower with a deep forward and guard rosters featuring Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, RR Pogoy, Calvin Oftana, Mikee Williams, Jayson Castro and Glenn Khobuntin.

Bolts coach Norman Black said balance and fresh legs are keys for them if they're to have a shot at another Governors' Cup finals stint.

"My biggest concern right now is how to get my guys fresh again as going to this tough battle with Magnolia (in the quarters) then having this series with TNT is going to be rough, particularly since TNT is a run and gun team," said Black.

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"They love to get up and down the floor. They use a lot of energy in their end of the offensive court. But I think we can keep up with them. We can run with them. How I get my guys ready for the game is very important," Black added.

With TNT as a scoring team and Meralco as a defensive-oriented team, Black said: "Something's got to give one way or another."

The imports fit with their respective teams and their respective schemes, adding excitement to the series.

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and KJ McDaniels are former teammates with the Brooklyn Nets in the NBA. And their matchup is exciting in itself.

Curiously, McDaniels was with TNT the last time the Tropa and the Bolts clashed in the semis.

"The balance is very important. KJ is not the kind of guy who scores 45 or 50 points a night but he will give you 25 to 30, so we need the other guys to step in and contribute," said Black.

Lastimosa, meanwhile, insists he loves the matchup, man-for-man, sounding very confident they can sustain their hot romp. (SB)