The TNT Tropang Giga were unfazed playing in front of a predominantly pro-Barangay Ginebra San Miguel crowd at the Araneta Coliseum and pulled off a tight 97-93 win in Game 6 of the 2023 PBA Governor’s Cup finals to clinch the championship.
Both teams went blow for blow down the stretch as the lead changed hands five times during the last four and a half minutes of the contest.
Ginebra went ahead for the last time in the evening off a dunk by forward Jamie Malonzo that put them up by one, 93-92, with 1:31 left on the game clock. TNT guard Mikey Williams then responded with a three-pointer on the ensuing possession to take control of the game for good.
From that point on, the Tropang Giga banked on tough defense over the last minute of the match, including two gutsy stops on Ginebra import Justin Brownlee, to seal the outcome of the game.
As usual, newly-minted PBA Best Import of the Conference Rondae Hollis-Jefferson took charge of covering Brownlee and did not disappoint. The 28-year-old forward also sealed the win with two seconds left in the fourth quarter, hitting two free throws to give TNT a four-point edge.
Hollis-Jefferson, after putting up a triple double in the prior outing, finished with 29 points, 14 rebounds, six assists, and two steals in Game 6.
Beyond his gaudy statistics, his instinctive ability to know when to defer to his teammates and when to take over the game was particularly crucial for the Tropang Giga in this contest. This trait of the first-time import Hollis-Jefferson allowed his teammate Williams to thrive and torch Ginebra with his finest performance of the finals.
Williams set the tone early on for TNT with a strong shooting display, scoring 26 of his game-high 38 points in the first half. He hit nine three-pointers during the game and also tallied seven rebounds coupled with three assists. The 31-year-old guard was eventually crowned the PBA Finals Most Valuable Player after the series, the second time in his two-season career in the Philippines that he won the award.
No other player scored more than six points for the Tropang Giga in Game 6 as they recognized early on that it was best to defer to the duo of Hollis-Jefferson and Williams who were in a groove from the opening tip. Hollis-Jefferson and Williams combined to take 52 shots during the game while the rest of TNT combined to attempt a mere 35.
This title is the 10th PBA championship of the Tropang Giga franchise since it first entered the league in 1990, though it is particularly special as it is their first ever Governor’s Cup victory. They will be without Hollis-Jefferson in the upcoming “All-Filipino” PBA Philippine Cup to kick off next season, but it is more likely than not that the six-year NBA veteran, given his instant success with TNT, will suit up for this team once again in the next import-laden conference.
The Tropang Giga have long been searching for a resident import, similar to the relationship that Ginebra and Brownlee have developed, and it looks like they have finally found “The One” in Hollis-Jefferson.