Game 5 of the 2021 PBA Philippine Cup Finals was promising for a few minutes before it abruptly turned into a coronation ceremony for the TNT Tropang Giga.
TNT took a 94-79 victory to win their franchise’s first title since the 2015 PBA Commissioner’s Cup. The five-game series was a “Gentleman’s Sweep” in the truest sense, with TNT posting a 16-point margin of victory in their four wins.
The Magnolia Pambansang Manok Hotshots were overmatched for most of the finals, yet they started Game 5 energized. They built a 10-5 lead over the first five minutes of the match, but that turned out to be the high point of the evening for them.
The Tropang Giga quickly responded to Magnolia’s opening salvo, using a 16-4 run to close the quarter. Troy Rosario scored five straight points to tie the score at 10 then five other TNT players made a basket each to give them a 21-14 lead at the end of the first period.
TNT’s momentum carried over to the second quarter, where they extended their advantage to 23 points with 2:31 remaining in the first half then settled for a 47-33 lead at halftime.
The last two quarters merely a formality, with the Tropang Giga’s lead never falling below 13 points and even reaching a high of 25 midway through the fourth quarter.
TNT rookie Mikey Williams, who was the runner-up to Magnolia’s Calvin Abueva in the Best Player of the Conference (BPC) race, was deservedly named the Finals MVP. He led all scorers for the fourth time in the five-game series, putting up 24 points, four three-pointers, four rebounds, and four assists.
Williams averaged 27.6 points throughout the finals and his offensive exploits were the driving force behind the Tropang Giga’s success. The attention that Williams commanded opened things up for his teammates and it led to seven other TNT players scoring at least seven points in the clincher.
RR Pogoy led the way for their supporting cast with 19 points, three rebounds, and three steals while the ever-reliable Jayson Castro chipped in with 10 points and three assists off the bench. The 35-year-old Castro, who has played his entire 13-year professional career with this TNT team, now has seven PBA titles to his name.
Meanwhile, as TNT’s new scoring sensation soared to new heights, Magnolia’s “Lethal Weapon” continued to struggle. Clearly bothered by his shoulder injury, Paul Lee had another dismal game, tallying a series-low seven points on three-of-11 shooting.
Though it was Abueva who was named the BPC, Lee remains the straw that stirs the drink for the Pambansang Manok Hotshots and they were unable to find their footing without him at full strength. Their offense was stagnant without Lee’s usual confident play and their typical alternate plan of getting offensive rebounds for second chance points was unable to overcome it.
Abueva (14 points, seven rebounds) and Ian Sangalang (18 points, nine rebounds) tried to keep Magnolia competitive although it was not enough.
The Pambansang Manok Hotshots will have to reassess their roster moving forward if they hope to remain competitive. The 29-year-old Sangalang is their only key piece who remains below 30 and they will need an influx of youth to offset the inevitable decline of Lee, Abueva, and Mark Barroca.
TNT on the other hand is in prime position to continue competing for championships over the next few years. Williams just turned 30 while Rosario and Pogoy are a year younger. Their presence has allowed and will continue to enable Castro and his fellow veterans Kelly Williams and Ryan Reyes to remain effective in smaller roles that are not as physically demanding.
The Tropang Giga waited for six years to win another PBA title, but if the way this team has come together is indicative of how they will fare over the coming years, it might not even be six months until they hoist another championship trophy at the end of the league’s next conference.