When a series is tied, the general feeling is that things are back to square one. It’s a point well taken, but in the case of the TNT Tropang Giga, this could be the moment they could flip the script.
The Tropang Giga raced to a 20-9 start and left the Barangay Ginebra Gin Kings in the dust. An offensive barrage from Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Mikey Williams, and Calvin Oftana helped TNT build a lead they would never relinquish, tying the 2023 Honda PBA Governors’ Cup Finals at 1-apiece.
Many saw the Tropang Giga’s championship aspirations take a hit with how the Gin Kings asserted themselves in Game 1. Ginebra’s size advantage and ability to punish the TNT defense in various ways made the challenge much tougher, but who knew their best bet was to give the Gin Kings a taste of their own medicine?
Game 2 saw the Tropang Giga have six players finish with at least eight points, most of whom helped TNT make 42 percent of their 3-pointers (on 35 attempts). The solid shooting came largely due to the ball movement that allowed the Tropang Giga to share the ball, with the 19 assists pointing to how the passing can find the best shot possible.
Ginebra still ended Game 2 with more rebounds (52-51), but that TNT was able to keep in step despite missing big men Kelly Williams and Justin Chua was great in itself. The score may have been lopsided in the Tropang Giga’s favor, but controlling the boards was crucial in dousing any momentum the Gin Kings may have tried to build.
Offense aside, though, credit must be given to how TNT was able to contain Justin Brownlee. The naturalized Filipino forward had more shot attempts (16) than points (12) and while it was remarkable that his shooting percentage was below 20 percent for the first time in his career, Brownlee’s terrible 3-point shooting (no makes in five attempts) meant he couldn’t get going no matter how much he tried.
A cold Brownlee of course, meant bad news for Ginebra as Jeremiah Gray continued his dismal finals series, while only Christian Standhardinger (29 points and 11 rebounds) made more than half of his field goal attempts.
For all their gains, the Tropang Giga understand that a win like this won’t mean a thing without a ring in the end. They’ve discovered a way to victory as evidenced with their play in Game 2, but work remains with Game 3 set for Friday.
For one, foul trouble continues to be a thorn in TNT’s side. JP Erram and Glenn Khobuntin, the starting frontcourt of the Tropang Giga, ended Game 2 with five fouls, while TNT let the Gin Kings get to the free throw line 26 times. They may have split the two games despite fouls hounding them, but fouls can prove to be tougher when the series wears on and the games get closer.
That being said, the Tropang Giga should themselves try to get to the free throw line more. TNT has the personnel to do so and more fouls on Ginebra could prove useful in evening the playing field. After all, fouls do have an influence on how the game has been played and the Tropang Giga have been on both sides of it.
Finally, ball movement was key for TNT in Game 2 and it may very well be the key for them moving forward. Not everyone on the Tropang Giga roster can create for themselves and the extra points will come from running the offense and at times off missed shots. The passing helped TNT navigate through the Gin Kings defense, which can be menacing if it clogs the driving lanes and closes up any hope of the Tropang Giga breaking through.
Just when everybody wanted to close the door on them, the TNT Tropang Giga came back and barged the very premature Barangay Ginebra Gin Kings’ coronation. The series has now been evened and with momentum on their side, it’s up to the Tropang Giga to bank on what has worked in the start to their climb to the top.