Things seem different with the TNT Tropang Giga, and yet, perhaps to the surprise of no one, the results are generally the same.
While it wasn’t easy, a win is a win. The Tropang Giga fought their way back from a 12-point deficit in the first quarter as the Phoenix Super LPG Fuel Masters had no problems scoring inside with no Poy Erram around. As things turned into a shootout, TNT’s best bet was to score more with less. And that started with import Jalen Hudson.
The Tropang Giga knocked down 17 3-pointers on the 123-119 victory led by Hudson’s six. Hudson’s shooting was contagious, as both Calvin Oftana (17 points on four 3-pointers) and RR Pogoy (21 points) made all of their 3-point attempts for TNT. The latter’s efforts in the third quarter were huge, as his performance in the second half handed the Tropang Giga a lead they wouldn’t relinquish despite the Fuel Masters’ numerous comeback attempts.
TNT playing from behind? Sure it’s a relatively uncommon sight. But how games end is all that matters and the Tropang Giga came away with the win in their first game in the 2023 PBA Governors’ Cup.
A win like this certainly has to feel good after all that has happened to TNT in the last few months. After losing to the San Miguel Beermen in the 2022 Honda PBA Philippine Cup Finals in seven games, things seemingly went downhill for the Tropang Giga. A 3-2 start to the 2022-2023 Commissioner’s Cup went for naught as TNT lost six of their next seven games. That dismal campaign came about due to a myriad of reasons, all of which signaled change was needed within the Tropang Giga.
TNT’s management realized that they needed a full-time coach given that Chot Reyes concurrently served as the head coach of the Gilas Pilipinas. Enter Jojo Lastimosa, who was made head coach along with his duties as team manager, and active consultant Slavoljub Lale Gorunivoc. Both will take on active roles in coaching the team until the conclusion of the 2023 FIBA World Cup.
Staff aside, the Tropang Giga also added Justin Chua and Paul Varilla in a three-team trade during the brief break in between conferences. The 2020 PBA Defensive Player of the Year’s arrival could not have come at a better time given Erram’s absence, but looking at the bigger picture, Chua further bolsters a TNT roster looking to shore up depth. The last two conferences have seen the Tropang Giga have to face June Mar Fajardo, Mo Tautuaa, Christian Standhardinger, Japeth Aguilar, Calvin Abueva, and Ian Sanggalang to name a few. The aforementioned frontcourt players belong to three teams (and all SMC teams), and it goes to show that there is strength in numbers. A frontline of Chua, Erram, Oftana, Kelly Williams, and Dave Marcelo can hold the fort down and give TNT one of the PBA’s more imposing frontcourt rotations.
Obviously a win like this won’t define the rest of TNT’s Governors’ Cup campaign, but there is one thing working in their favor: continuity. It can easily go unnoticed given the headlines surrounding the Tropang Giga, but having their main guys in place for quite some time certainly helps. Hudson, who finished with a game-high of 34 points, 10 rebounds, and seven assists. is likely still getting used to the rigors of the PBA, but having teammates like Pogoy, Kelly Williams, Jayson Castro, and Mikey Williams makes the transition easier. Moreover, placing Lastimosa and Gorunivoc at the helm is unlike bringing in a new coach altogether. The feeling out part isn’t really there and apart from some tweaks, having a focused coaching staff is a big boost. After all, PBA championships are solely not won on talent; coaching plays a big part in it too.
The TNT Tropang Giga got off on the right foot in the 2023 PBA Governors’ Cup by earning a hard-fought win over the Phoenix Super LPG Fuel Masters. There’s obviously A LOT of basketball still left to be played, but things are working into the Tropang Giga’s favor, so long as they make the most out of it.