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TNT Tropang Giga now have history on their side after taking 3-1 lead over Magnolia Hotshots in PBA Philippine Cup semifinals

After a 102-84 Game 4 win over Magnolia Hotshots on Wednesday, TNT Tropang Giga are now just one win away from reaching the PBA Philippine Cup finals for the second year running. PBA Media Bureau

Defending champions TNT Tropang Giga are just one win a way from a return trip to the PBA Philippine Cup finals after they plastered Magnolia Hotshots, 102-84, on Wednesday to take a commanding 3-1 lead in their best-of-seven series.

A strong second half helped TNT break the game wide open after they led by just 42-38 at the half.

Ahead of Friday's potential series clincher, here are three thoughts on TNT's latest win.

Second-half Mikey shows up again

For the second time in this series, Magnolia had success containing Mikey Williams in the first half, holding him scoreless.

But just like in Game 2, the prolific guard broke free in the second half, specifically in the fourth quarter where he buried four triples.

"Well, we keep we keep repeating it, but we're a team," said TNT coach Chot Reyes. "And Mikey is a big part of the team but he's not the only part of the team, and that's a huge credit to the guys who continue to step forward and take up the cudgels.

"They're doing an excellent job defending him, but that gives the other guys like boy opportunities. And we're just taking advantage of the opportunities presented by the extra concentration on Mikey defensively.

"So we anticipated that Mikey would have a good struggle in scoring in the first half. So we just made sure that we spread it a little bit, make sure that other guys have opportunities. I think that was the key."

Different players stepped up for TNT each quarter. RR Pogoy dropped 15 of his 18 points in the first half. Glenn Khobuntin scored all of his nine points in the third, when the Tropang Giga outscored the Hotshots 28-16 to pull away. Then it was Williams' turn in the fourth.

Tropang Giga getting it done on both ends

Magnolia entered this series boasting of the league's best defense, having held opponents to around 84 points per game.

The Tropang Giga have shredded the Hotshots' vaunted defense in their three series wins, breaking the century mark twice and averaging 101 points. In those three wins, TNT has also held Magnolia to 89.3 points.

This game, in particular, was brutal for the Hotshots as they shot only 38%. Jio Jalalon (2-of-9), Calvin Abueva (1-of-5) and Mark Barroca (2-of-7) all struggled, negating Paul Lee's best game of the series so far (17 points).

On their approach for this game, Reyes explained: "As usual, we always look at whatever defensive adjustments we can make and how they're scoring against us. And the focus in this ballgame really was twofold.

"Number one was to make stops, our defensive fundamentals, go back to our defensive fundamentals. And I think that was very important in this ballgame. I think it was crucial for us to defend them and make stops.

"And then the second thing, just offensively was to limit our turnovers to make sure that we took good shots. And I think those two things were the priorities, coming to the ballgame. You know, we knew that Magnolia was going to come out hard.

"But these guys, I think they're ready. And like I said our preparation isn't only technical, but it's also mental, emotional, psychological. So I think that's important that in this series."

TNT big men Poy Erram (19 points) and Troy Rosario (15) made their presence felt, as well.

"They were leaving the bigs open so coach Chot and the other coaches devised a plan to open it up," Erram said. "We're willing to give everything to get the win for the team and we had to be aggressive because in the first two games we weren't aggressive.

"So we had to show them that it's not just our guards who can put up the points. so I'm very fortunate that my teammates were also looking for me. It's the semis. Every advantage you can get, you should take it."

One win away

History is on the side of TNT as 53 out of 57 teams that have taken a 3-1 series lead in the PBA playoffs have gone on to win the series, including 28 out of the last 29.

Ironically, TNT was one of four teams that have overcome a 3-1 deficit, doing so against Petron Blaze Boosters (now San Miguel Beermen) in the semifinals of the 2011 edition of the Philippine Cup.

Reyes was also the coach of that team, then known as Talk 'N Text Tropang Texters, so he knows how important it is to finish strong and get that fourth win.

"Well, the good thing is we have veterans," he said. "They've been here before, so they know how difficult it is to get that.

"That's the most difficult win in any series, is the fourth. So we just have to make sure to remind them of it. But more importantly, put them in a position to come and play their best in the next game.

"So that's going to be determined by our rest and recovery and our preparation tomorrow in practice. So like I said, there's nothing much that needs to be said. They know the most difficult win to get in any series is number four, so we have to be extra ready for it."