TNT opened up its PBA Philippine Cup title-retention bid on a bright note despite missing two prized players.
The Tropang Giga intend to continue doing well despite the absence of Mikey and Kelly Williams when they tangle with the Blackwater Bossing who are experiencing their own manpower problems Thursday at the Ynares Center in Antipolo.
A follow-up win by TNT to its 78-72 win over Magnolia on opening day last Sunday would give the former the early lead, a no mean feat considering Rookie of the Year awardee Mikey is still renegotiating his contract while former MVP and defensive specialist Kelly also remains out with a calf injury.
In the meantime, according to coach Chot Reyes, the rest of his Tropa must hold the fort and focus on making stops while playing without the younger Williams.
"We're just preparing our team to play without Mikey," stated Reyes.
Sponsored content:For its part, Blackwater wants to pick up from where it left off in the last conference, when it stunned Magnolia, 101-100, to end a 29-game losing streak.
This time the Bossing remain faced with a gargantuan task, considering top draft pick Brandon Ganuelas-Rosser has been sidelined by a fractured finger and would be out at least two more weeks. Ditto for Paul Desiderio, who suffered a torn ACL during a pre-season tune-up game with, coincidentally, TNT and would be out for the season. Kelly Nabong also has to completely heal from a nagging knee injury.
Blackwater coach Ariel Vanguardia is still optimistic that his remaining players, led by JV Casio, Baser Amer, Kevin Ebona, Joshua Torralba and new acquisition Yousef Taha, would be up to the task and put into game all their preparations.
"We are going to this season as the most prepared team," said Vanguardia.
"We started early and worked hard for this coming season."
The fact remains, however, that TNT remains potent what with Troy Rosario, Jayson Castro, Roger Pogoy and Poy Erram remaining in full harness and the likes of Kib Montalbo, Glenn Khobuntin and Matt Ganuelas-Rosser providing ample support.
Rosario and Castro even emerged as heroes in that Magnolia win with the do-it-all forward notching a 22-point, 10-rebound double-double and the latter scoring 13 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter while stabilizing the Tropa's endgame drive. (NC) (PBA)