Team sports will always give credence to how on rough days and struggling nights, a teammate in need is a teammate indeed.
The TNT Tropang Giga have at times been defined by their stars now and those from the past, but at the end of the day, their work as a team has led to their championship success over the years. When the going gets tough and when it’s your franchise player who’s going through a slump, having teammates to pick up the slack is a blessing more so when it comes at the right time.
Mikey Williams has been struggling for much of the 2022 Honda PBA Philippine Cup Finals, something the San Miguel Beermen have taken advantage of in Games 2 and 3. Things looked to be the same again in Game 4, but the Tropang Giga decided to play spoilers on the night June Mar Fajardo was named Best Player of the Conference.
Jayson Castro had another virtuoso performance, finishing with a game-high 26 points (on a single miss on his 10 2-point attempts), six rebounds, four assists (on one turnover), and a game-high three steals. Roger Pogoy also had 21 points to support Castro, forming a 1-2 punch that helped tie the title series at 2-games apiece.
The individual numbers certainly point to how the contributions of Castro, Pogoy, and Kelly Williams (14 points on 50 percent shooting and seven rebounds) helped hand TNT the 100-87 victory over the Beermen in Game 4, but it was a team effort that was backed up by a key statistic.
Among the numbers from this game, the PBA-record low three turnovers the Tropang Giga finished with in Game 4 proved to be pivotal in both preventing SMB from completing a comeback and also overcoming solid games from both Fajardo (20 points and 19 rebounds) and Marcio Lassiter (14 points on 55.6 percent field-goal shooting). It was also a welcome development after TNT averaged 21.5 turnovers over the two losses to San Miguel.
On their part, the Tropang Giga forced SMB to commit five times the number of turnovers (15) they made, scoring 15 points off those miscues and dousing the momentum of the Beermen. The disruptive defense thus forced SMB into a terrible shooting night from behind the 3-point line (4-of-22 3-point shooting for the game), negating their solid scoring night from inside (57 percent shooting on 47 attempts).
Some may also point to the return of Gilas Pilipinas head coach Chot Reyes’ return to the sidelines, but it is TNT’s players and the coaching staff who stayed that have helped put together a perfect game that was pretty much needed against a juggernaut like San Miguel. Castro took on the cudgels offensively, while the likes of Kelly Williams and Poy Erram (eight points, eight rebounds, and two blocks) did their best efforts in leading the frontcourt defense against Fajardo and company. They showed up and didn’t try to juggle duties that could easily have been given to other worthy coaches (since after all Reyes has viewed Gilas’ recent competitions as “learning experiences”) all for the sake of personal glory.
The TNT Tropang Giga continue to hope that Mikey Williams can rediscover his form from last season, where teams would at times scratch their heads with how he was making mincemeat out of defenses. The 2021 PBA Rookie of the Year’s 15 points on 28 percent field-goal shooting and 21 attempts in Game 4 was certainly his worst performance so far in the series, but the six assists (on one turnover) he finished with point to how he continues to find ways to contribute despite being hounded by the San Miguel Beermen’s defense and the effects of playing through an ankle injury.
In the meantime, teamwork has helped keep the Tropang Giga’s dream of staying alive in this series work. Individual brilliance has had its merits but at the end of the day, basketball titles are won by and large by teams themselves.