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Magnolia Hotshots still alive in PBA Philippine Cup as defense gets going in Game 5 vs. TNT Tropang Giga

Magnolia Hotshots are still alive in the PBA Philippine Cup semifinals after claiming a 105-97 win over TNT Tropang Giga in Game 5 for a 3-2 series deficit. PBA Media Bureau

The Magnolia Hotshots are still alive in the 2022 PBA Philippine Cup after taking a 105-97 Game 5 win against the defending champions TNT Tropang Giga.

With the series now 3-2 in TNT's favor, Magnolia will now try to even things up in Game 6 on Sunday.

Here, we look at the main takeaways from Friday's game.

Magnolia's defense gets going

The Hotshots gave up 97 points, which is around ten points higher than their average this conference, but it was their defensive effort in the second quarter that spelled the difference.

They outscored the Tropang Giga 31-19 and held them to 42.1% shooting while forcing them into ten turnovers. That effort gave Magnolia a 59-45 lead at the halftime break which proved to be enough to hold off repeated runs by TNT in the second half.

"We did a good job on defense," coach Chito Victolero said. "We don't need to change anything about it. We're here because of our defense.

"We did a good job sustaining that defense for 48 minutes. We limited the fouls and we played physical, and we still played within our game. Credit to all the players. Backs against the wall, do or die.

"Our mental toughness was there. We expected a grinding game on both ends of the floor. Credit to all of them, (from) Mark down to my 15th guy. We really worked for this from our preparation yesterday until today.

"We live another day. We don't have anything to celebrate. We're still down in the series. We just want to live another day and prepare for Sunday's game."

The Hotshots never allowed Mikey Williams to get going, holding him to only 13 points and 1-of-9 shooting from beyond the arc. It was a far cry from Game 4, where Williams buried four triples in the fourth to help TNT pull away.

"Jio (Jalalon) and I were assigned to Castro," said Mark Barroca, who set the tone for Magnolia with 25 points. "What's good about it is that they (Castro and Williams) didn't explode at the same time.

"Today, Jayson took charge. At least we were able to stop Mikey. We try to limit both of them. If only one of them explodes, we have a chance to win. It's a challenge for us guards."

Barroca is the barometer

Here's an interesting stat for Magnolia: in three losses this series, Barroca has shot 12-of-27 and averaged just 9.0 points. In two wins, those numbers go up to 19-of-35 and 23.5 points per game.

Victolero knows it's clear that the team goes where Barroca takes them.

"When MB (Barroca) is aggressive, we have a good chance. He knows that when he's aggressive, the others will follow. So that's why in Sunday's game (turns to Barroca), you have to be aggressive again."

"I was just trying to be aggressive and smart with my game," Barroca said. "I need support from my teammates. All of us should be aggressive.

"We're down so we needed to get some momentum at the start of the game. You're down 1-3, so you need to come out with energy so that when the bench comes in, they'll also have fire."

Still, Magnolia nearly coughed up a 16-point lead as TNT got to within three points several times in the fourth quarter. The Tropang Giga, however, just couldn't get over the hump with Williams struggling with his shot.

"I told them you need to weather the storm," Victolero said. "Even in the first half in the huddle I told them will have some runs in the second half. Three, four five times.

"You need to weather that storm, stay focused, you need to grind every single possession. But because of their mental toughness, because they were smart and disciplined on both ends, we survived.

"So that's all we needed. We need to survive together to extend the series."

Victolero also dismissed talk of Paul Lee's continued shooting struggles after the star guard shot just 4-of-13 (but a perfect 7-of-7 from the line).

"I'm not worried about Paul," he said. "Maybe you guys have been reading stuff, but within the circle we have no problem with Paul.

"We know our system. Paul can easily score 20 to 30 points, but he needs to sacrifice for his team for us to run the system. He is doing a good job on both ends of the floor especially on his defense.

"He sacrificed a lot, the effort to play defense. On offense, if he contributed, fine. If not, the others will step up. So we're not worried. Within the team, we all know what to do.

"These guys, Calvin, Ian, Jio Paul, they can easily score 20 points on any given night. But they need to sacrifice for the team."

On to Sunday

Jalalon sat out the entire fourth quarter with what Victolero said was a hamstring injury, and the coach said he wanted to be prudent heading into the their second do-or-die game on Sunday.

"We want to save Jio for the next game," he said. "I talked to Mark, and he said he could step up. I think it's a hamstring strain but right now I don't know the level of the injury.

"He was actually signaling me that he wants to play. But I felt that if I have a chance today, I need him on Sunday. That's why I didn't force Jio to play in the last quarter.

"If his injury is aggravated then he has no chance to play on Sunday. So I want to save him. And Mark's doing a good job, so that's the decision-making that I needed to do."

Barroca said the team's mindset is simple as they attempt to become just the fifth team in PBA history to overcome a 1-3 series deficit.

"Fight for another day, another practice. That's our motivation," he added.