TNT caught fire from long range to cap off a dominant run in the elimination round of the 2021 PBA Philippine Cup with a 103-85 drubbing of Alaska Saturday at DHVSU Gym in Bacolor, Pampanga.
Four players hit at least three triples for the playoff-bound Tropang Giga, who hit 18-of-38 shots (47.4 percent) from downtown on their way to claiming their 10th win in 11 games.
Roger Pogoy led the assault with 18 points and four boards, while Poy Erram tallied 17 markers, eight rebounds, three blocks and two assists for TNT, which will now wait for quite a bit to determine the No. 8 seed it will face in the quarterfinals.
Kelly and Mikey Williams also added 12 each, while Jayjay Alejandro came up with 11 off the bench for a Tropang Giga team hardly slacked off against the Aces even with the No. 1 seed and the twice-to-beat advantage already in the bag long ago.
"For us, the only thing we talked about this game was how we can grow. We wanted to try some things in this game that we haven't done in the past few games. And that's all we're focused on now, just to continue growing, getting better as a team," coach Chot Reyes said after the game.
TNT led by as many as 19 in a torrid first half showing that saw the Tropang Giga sink 11-of-19 3s on their way to a safe 49-37 lead at the break.
But the Aces, playing in the second of three consecutive games, showed some fight in the third and rolled out an 11-2 start after halftime to pull within three, 51-48, after a Maverick Ahanmisi basket chopped the deficit with 7:39 on the clock.
TNT, though, answered back with a 10-2 counter through Erram, who scored seven throughout that stretch to restore the advantage to double-digits, 61-50.
The Tropang Giga stayed firmly in control after that and held on to a double-digit lead to hack out the win and enter the playoffs bannering a four-game win streak.
"First of all, I want to acknowledge the incredible job that coach Jeff (Cariaso) and the Alaska coaching staff did. Just that effort that they had last night (Friday against Barangay Ginebra) was fantastic, and they have another game tomorrow (Sunday). It was very difficult for them," Reyes remarked.
TNT shot 46.9 percent from the field while holding Alaska to under 40-percent shooting (38.1). The team also got 54 points off of its bench as 13 players scored at least two points.
"We had an intentional, conscious effort to spread the minutes so that we don't overextend any of our players," Reyes expressed. "We're walking a fine line between keeping them fresh and keeping them sharp. That's why we wanted to give the guys a lot of court time."
TNT will have at least a week off as the teams jostle for position all over the standings, and Reyes is wary of rust setting in heading into the playoffs.
"We have to figure out how to stay sharp because we have a pretty long break. I told the players the first half of the season, it's only the first half that's done. We now need to be prepared for a very, very tough second half," he said.
Alaska, meanwhile, (3-5) will have a chance to rebound on Sunday against Terrafirma (3-7) in order to keep its playoff hopes alive.
Abu Tratter led the Aces once more by scoring 12 and pulling down nine boards in the loss. Jvee Casio was the only other Alaska player to reach double-digit scoring with 11.
TNT 103 -- Pogoy 18, Erram 17, Williams M. 12, Williams K. 12, Alejandro 11, Reyes 9, Marcelo 7, Rosario 5, Exciminiano 3, Mendoza 3, Heruela 2, Castro 2.
Alaska 85 -- Tratter 12, Casio 11, Marcelino 9, Banal 9, DiGregorio 8, Brondial 8, Browne 7, Herndon 5, Ahanmisi 5, Adamos 4, Teng 4, Ebona 3, Stockton 0, Ilagan 0.
Quarters: 22-15, 49-37, 68-56, 103-85.
- TNT cooled off from three-point range in the second half, though it still managed to make 7-of-19 3s (36.8 percent). Six came in the fourth quarter; three of those were from Ryan Reyes, who scored all of his nine during the payoff period.
- Kib Montalbo (knee) and Glenn Khobuntin (groin) sat out Saturday's game against Alaska due to lingering injuries.
- Alaska vs. Terrafirma on Sunday, Sep. 19, at 7:00 p.m.