Once again, the 2023 Honda PBA Governors’ Cup Finals is tied thanks to a 116-104 win by the TNT Tropang Giga.
The Tropang Giga relied on a PBA Finals-record 21 3-pointers to take down the Barangay Ginebra Gin Kings in Game 4 and it came on a barrage. The Gin Kings may have led after knocking down the game’s first 3-pointer, with TNT going on a 19-2 run in the second quarter to blow the game wide open. Even when Ginebra would go on their trademark comeback attempts, the Tropang Giga always found a way to respond and make the Gin Kings’ rallies be for naught.
It was a balanced effort from TNT as five players from the Tropang Giga squad knocked down at least three 3-pointers and that kind of shooting night eventually opened up things inside. It not only allowed TNT to make more than half of their field goal attempts (51 percent), but it also allowed them to overcome Ginebra, who themselves had an even better shooting night (54 percent from the field).
So far, the Tropang Giga’s formula for success, and to some extent the Gin Kings’, has been stellar shooting either individually or as a team. It has allowed them to stay in step with Ginebra and overcome the size disadvantage that comes with TNT’s reeling frontcourt.
However, this game of catch up may not be sustainable with the finals now a virtual best-of-three series.
The Gin Kings have the kind of roster that would be well-suited for a longer series, more so given their continued success in drawing fouls against the Tropang Giga. TNT’s hot shooting in Game 4 helped offset that, but it would be unwise to rely on that in the next couple of games when shooting itself is not something exclusive to one team. Thankfully, Game 4 has provided some things to build on.
A longer rotation was evident, not just due to the lopsided score, but also because of the return of a key member of the Tropang Giga. Kelly Williams made his finals debut in Game 4 and while his numbers won’t jump out of the stat sheet, his mere presence was enough to make the rebounding battle even. Of course, the comfortable lead TNT had played a factor, but Williams’ return was helpful in atoning for the loss of Justin Chua earlier in the series. The 41-year old will continue to work his way back into shape, bu thet one-sided contest allowed him to take his time with Game 5 still being on Wednesday.
The return of Williams also gives the Tropang Giga more options in the paint, something that will stretch the Ginebra defense. The stats may not show it, but newly crowned Best Import of the Conference Rondae Hollis-Jefferson has had to work for every shot and an additional body inside will allow him to probe for opportunities instead of charging with reckless abandon.
Among the locals, Calvin Oftana has proven to be crucial and will do so moving forward. The 2019 NCAA MVP has been a steady presence for the TNT, win or lose, and his activity has been a bane for a Gin Kings defense that has had to be on their toes. Oftana will have to get to the free throw line more, though, as Ginebra will make adjustments, ones he can counter with more physicality he can bring in from the offensive end.
The TNT Tropang Giga may have won their latest battle against the Barangay Ginebra Gin Kings, but the war for the 2023 Honda PBA Governors’ Cup championship is pretty much still up for grabs. Both teams get a few games of rest, but the Tropang Giga have the momentum and a few other things working for them at the moment. TNT will obviously take whatever they can in each game and every possession, but a title could be more and more within reach when they can take matters into their own hands.