KaTropa eye 2-0 lead vs Beermen

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TNT KaTropa head coach Nash Racela knows their Game 1 win means nothing especially against a top caliber team like San Miguel Beer.

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Entering Game 2 today, Racela hopes the KaTropa can keep their focus as they gun for a commanding 2-0 lead against the Beermen in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Commissioner’s Cup finals at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Game time is set at 7 p.m. as TNT tries to make a follow up to its 104-102 escape last Wednesday on Joshua Smith’s game-winner.

Joshua Smith of TNT attempts to score against June Mar Fajardo OF SMB during Game 1 of the best-of-seven finals of the PBA Season 42 Commissioner’s Cup at the Araneta’s Coliseum on Wednesday. PBA MEDIA BUREAU PHOTO

The KaTropa managed to steal the game from San Miguel despite missing the services of veterans Ranidel de Ocampo and Ryan Reyes due to injuries and Smith playing with one healthy foot.

Racela said that it is still questionable if Reyes and De Ocampo are capable of playing in Game 2 but the team will bank on their huge win in the series opener as he expects the Beermen to bounce back strong.

“Even if they’re (Reyes and De Ocampo) available in Game 2, it’s not going to be easy. All their players are capable of providing quality minutes and can get contribution from everyone. We have to play better,” said Racela.

De Ocampo is just recovering from flu while Reyes is nursing a minor injury.

Without the two veterans, the Katropa banked on the all-around game of Jayson Castro and the crafty defense of rookie Roger Pogoy to keep them afloat in Game 1.

Castro flirted with a triple-double game with 14 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds while Pogoy tallied a personal-high 27 points, the most in the finals from a rookie since the 30 points of Rain or Shine’s Maverick Ahanmisi in last year’s Commissioner’s Cup finals.

“His (Pogoy) defense is always something we require of him. Scoring (27) points is just extra special,” said Racela. Pogoy notched five three-pointers in Game 1.

But the limelight belonged to Smith, who sank the game winner to cap his 21-point performance in just 26 minutes of play.

Smith did not play immediately in Game 1, and it paid off for TNT as he was available down the stretch to score the important basket of the game.

“He (Smith) played with a big heart,” said Racela, adding that the burly import is still “day-to-day” because although Smith felt better prior the series opener.

Beermen mentor Leo Austria said they need better defense to limit Smith in Game 2 and tie the series.

“We have to contain Smith because he’s our main problem on the defensive end,” said Austria. “TNT is surrounded with perimeter shooters and we have to do something about that.”

Charles Rhodes had a better offensive game compared to Smith with 31 points, 21 of which came in the final period but he had six turnovers in the match.

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