We can only wish that this semifinals series featuring the Phoenix Fuel Masters and the TNT Tropang Giga is longer than a best-of-five, but we’ll just have to savor this tasty matchup one game at a time.
After winning the series opener, will the Tropang Giga get another victory and move within one win of a Finals appearance? Or, will the Fuel Masters tie it all up on Friday?
Catch this game live on November 20 at 6:30 pm, Manila time.
The Phoenix Fuel Masters (0-1)
That the Fuel Masters managed to hang around until the end of their 95-92 Game 1 loss to TNT was proof of how well-coached and deep Phoenix is.
With Matthew Wright exiting the game in the first quarter with a sprained ankle and Calvin Abueva playing intermittently because of foul trouble, the Fuel Masters leaned on their deep bench, which responded in a big way.
Letranite RJ Jazul banged in a game-high 21 points with four 3-pointers coming off the bench, while Alex Mallari and RR Garcia added 25 points together for Phoenix’s second unit. In a way, it was a moral victory for the Fuel Masters, who are hoping Wright will recover in time for Game 2. If anything, it was a good sign that Wright watched the rest of the contest from the bench and walked off the court on his own at the end of the game.
Abueva, despite playing in just 21 minutes, racked up 13 points and nine rebounds, while applying sticky defense on Ray Parks Jr. Abueva helped limit the TNT star down to salty 5-of-16 shooting performance.
Apart from Abueva’s foul trouble and Wright’s injury, the Fuel Masters also had to see Justin Chua throw up enough bricks to build another gymnasium in Angeles City, as he shot 0 of 10 from the floor. It can’t be that bad again for Chua, who’s still a dependable peripheral scorer for Phoenix. If Abueva can manage his fouls better and the bench continues to put up great offensive production, Phoenix can turn the tide to its favor on Friday, even if Wright won’t be at his 100 percent form.
The TNT Tropang Giga (1-0)
The Tropang Giga must be thankful that Jayson Castro is on their side and still playing at a high level. The veteran point guard rescued TNT from a late-game collapse, as he made timely baskets to help the Tropang Giga stave off the Fuel Masters.
Castro also played a key role in balancing the offense of TNT, as he came off the bench and fired 20 points to go with six rebounds and six assists in 29 minutes to soften the impact of Phoenix’s high-scoring bench. The Tropang Giga might have to keep bringing Castro off the bench to prevent overloading their talent-rich starting five at the expense of a smooth usage distribution.
Parks scored 17 points in Game 1, while RR Pogoy chipped in 16 points. However, the two combined for 10-of-32 shooting from the field, giving Phoenix plenty of chances to launch counter-attacks. Troy Rosario has to bounce back from his atrocious performance in Game 1, where he only had five points (2-7 FG), but his rebounding might be needed more, as JP Erram can’t win the battle on the glass against Chua and Perkins alone.
Phoenix must like its performance in Game 1, as they played well with so many things going against them. A more disciplined Calvin Abueva will lead the Fuel Masters to a 93-90 win in Game 2.