Championships aside, the TNT Tropang Giga have usually been among the PBA’s more successful teams. From the resources they have at their disposal, to more often than not having the best coaches on their bench (at least on paper), it’s fair to say that it’s championship or bust for the Tropang Giga.
When TNT acquired Calvin Oftana prior to the start of the 2022-2023 Honda PBA Commissioner’s Cup, it was seen as more of a reload for the Tropang Giga, who were reeling off a tough seven-game All-Filipino Cup finals series to the San Miguel Beermen that saw them come home empty.
The belief was that TNT got younger and would also remain a title contender, even if they had to give up Troy Rosario to acquire Oftana. The addition of Cameron Oliver, who is also being floated as a potential candidate for naturalization, only made the Tropang Giga a more stacked roster and all signs pointed to another strong run.
Reality, though, has been far from the preconference expectations.
After a close opening loss to the Magnolia Chicken Timplados Hotshots, TNT won their next two games by wide margins over the NorthPort Batang Pier and the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters. After that, however, the Tropang Giga would go 1-3, with TNT currently on a losing streak for the first time this season thanks to their latest loss to the Phoenix Super LPG Fuel Masters.
That the Tropang Giga fumbled the opening tip before securing the ball was an ominous sign of things to come. TNT only managed to score seven points in the opening quarter, while the Fuel Masters pounced on the Tropang Giga’s lackluster effort on the defensive end by being deliberate in their approach in probing for the hole in the defense.
The Tropang Giga currently lead the PBA in 3-point shooting, making 37 percent of their attempts through seven games. TNT’s 36.9 attempts per game are third in the league thus far, but what gives?
Oliver hasn’t been the problem as he’s been averaging nearly 30 points per game (29.9), with RR Pogoy (20.1), Mikey Williams (19.6), and Oftana (12.0) rounding out the double-figure per-game scorers for the Tropang Giga. However, that implies that much of TNT’s production comes from their starters.
The Tropang Giga’s bench only averages 26.9 points per game, which not only is the second-worst mark in the PBA, but is also equal to a little over 25 percent of TNT’s 104.7 points per game. That number is actually fourth in the league, but given how it only comes from a handful of the members of the Tropang Giga, it isn’t exactly a sustainable strategy.
Moreover, TNT only made a PBA-worst 59 percent of their free throw attempts, and it reared its ugly head again in the loss to the Fuel Masters after the Tropang Giga missed nine free throw attempts in a three-point loss.
The numbers only tell part of the story, as TNT is also dealing with some issues within the team. Reports of the Tropang Giga suspending star guard Mikey Williams explained his absence in the loss to Phoenix surfaced, with word coming out that Williams will miss TNT’s next game against the winless Terrafirma Dyip (although the Tropang Giga may not need Williams for that contest). Nonetheless, TNT seems to be getting exasperated with the reigning PBA Rookie of the Year and the 2021 PBA Philippine Cup Finals MVP.
At this point, the Tropang Giga thrive in transition trailing only the Bay Area Dragons in fastbreak points per game at 17.3. A whole-of-TNT approach will make this more effective and in turn, ensure consistency during the crucial stretch of the 2022-2023 Commissioner’s Cup. After all, the Tropang Giga will still face the Barangay Ginebra Gin Kings, the Dragons, and the Beermen in their last three games.
It’s not often one can find the TNT Tropang Giga near the bottom of the standings in any conference. The Tropang Giga still have a handful of games left in the 2022-2023 Honda PBA Commissioner’s Cup, but the margin of error is starting to become thinner not just on a per-game basis, but also in the bigger picture.