Mar 25, 2023

Tropa bracing for Bolts fightback

EVEN with the 1-0 series head start, the TNT Tropang Giga are realistic they haven't achieved anything and they're still facing a job cut out for them versus the Meralco Bolts.

Coach Jojo Lastimosa hasn't been too long with the Tropa but has been long enough in the league to know the character of the Bolts and their history as traditional contenders in the PBA Governors' Cup.

"First game (loss) for them is nothing new. They lost one first game before and won three straight over TNT so it's not something they haven't done before," said Lastimosa, referring to the 2016 Final Four tussle, where Norman Black's charges swept past the franchise after dropping the opener.

There's also their 2019 semis faceoff where TNT enjoyed 1-0 and 2-1 leads, but Meralco dug deep to salvage the series.

And so Lastimosa and his troops are not to let their guards down as they tangle with the Bolts in Game 2 of their PBA Season 47 Governors Cup semis duel at 4:30 p.m. Sunday at the Ynares Sports Center in Antipolo.

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"They're going to come out with energy. Meralco is a very hardworking team and nobody can outwork them. If we can match their intensity and energy especially on defense, we should be okay," he said.

Lastimosa is particularly wary of Chris Newsome after a measly 10-point game the last time, 48 hours after a 33-point explosion in their quarterfinals conquest of the Magnolia Hotshots.

"But we'll be ready," said Lastimosa.

The Tropang Giga blasted off the starting block and hardly slowed down in their dominant wire-to-wire win in Wednesday's series kickoff.

Lastimosa, however, won't be carried away by that 30-point blowout.

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"I was just surprised that it looked like Meralco was lacking a bit of energy maybe because they came off an emotional victory and maybe they a little bit on a high, and there's a lot of reasons," said Lastimosa.

Resting their top guns when the game was beyond reach, the Bolts are likely to recalibrate for a bounceback bid.

"We have to be stronger, faster and quicker because we are playing a good team," said Black.

Main agenda is stopping TNT import Rondae Hollis-Jefferson.

"It's not just his scoring but it's the fact that he's facilitating for his teammates. He's giving his teammates wide open shots off his penetrations. Hope we can figure out how we can work defensively against him," said Black of TNT's reinforcement.

"That's a challenge to (Bolts import) KJ (McDaniels). He's up against a very tough import. He has to raise his game for us to have success in this series because the kid is pretty good," he added.

Hollis-Jefferson turned in an error-free triple-double with 22 points, 13 rebounds and 12 assists plus two steals and two blocks with Pogoy rifling in 21 markers built on 5-of-8 three-pointers. Calvin Oftana, Mikey Williams and Jayson Castro played their part, scoring at least 12 points each. (SB)