Through the first two games of the 2021 PBA Philippine Cup Finals, Mikey Williams has been the undisputed best player on the court.
His strong play has helped the TNT Tropang Giga take a 2-0 lead over the Magnolia Pambansang Manok Hotshots following a comfortable 105-93 win in Game 2 at the DHVSU Gym in Bacolor, Pampanga.
Williams led all scorers with 28 points on 50% shooting and he also recorded nine rebounds and six assists–a worthy follow-up performance to his outstanding Game 1 where he put up 21 points, 10 rebounds, and five assists.
Although technically still a rookie, Williams is an NBA G-League Veteran and will already turn 30 years old next year, which has clearly helped his acclimation to TNT and the PBA. He now has unquestionably taken the reins of the Tropang Giga from their old guard and has them within two wins of their first title since the 2015 PBA Commissioner’s Cup.
Magnolia has had no answer for the crafty Williams over the first two games and even resorted to picking him up full court. Though it may have bothered Williams, the tactic inadvertently allowed the rest of TNT more room to operate.
Veteran guard and franchise icon Jayson Castro came off the bench for 16 points and five assists while Brian Heruela and Ryan Reyes added 11 and 10, respectively. Meanwhile, Troy Rosario was once again a stabilizing force for them and wound up with 12 points, six rebounds, and a block.
Aside from the offensive clinic that Williams has put on, the defensive versatility of Rosario, RR Pogoy, and Kib Montalbo has been one of the driving forces behind TNT’s postseason run and is one of the key reasons why they have a 2-0 lead over Magnolia. In Game 2, they limited the Pambansang Manok Hotshots to just 39% field goal shooting and allowed only six made three pointers out of 23 attempts.
Ian Sangalang finished with 25 points to lead Magnolia though he needed 25 shots and was evidently bothered by the interior defense of the Tropang Giga’s Kelly Williams and Poy Erram. Calvin Abueva recorded his second consecutive 11-point and 11-rebound game, but he was largely ineffective as he shot an atrocious three-of-12 from the field, committed three turnovers, and was a team-low -16 on the evening.
Paul Lee, who oddly had just 12 points on 12 attempts for the second straight game, was vastly outplayed by Mikey Williams once again. Lee is the key for the Pambansang Manok Hotshots and if he cannot figure out a way around TNT’s defense, this series may very well end in a sweep since his backcourt partners Mark Barroca and Jio Jalalon have not had any luck either.
Winning Game 3 will be crucial for Magnolia if they hope to keep this series competitive. A 3-0 deficit has only been overcome once in PBA history–the BEERacle of the 2016 PBA Philippine Cup Finals–albeit it is almost impossible to win four consecutive games versus this Tropang Giga team with the way that they are playing.
These finals have been Williams’ coming out party and there is no indication that the festivities are going to stop. He has brought TNT back to the finals and they are now on the cusp of returning to the top of the league.
Taking home the championship almost seems inevitable at this point and with the way that their new core has gelled together, it looks like the Tropang Giga are going to be a force to reckon with, not just this season, but over the coming decade as well.