MANILA, Philippines – TNT head coach Nash Racela found plenty to criticize even after the KaTropa racked up its fourth consecutive victory in the 2017 PBA Commissioner's Cup by holding off the Mahindra Floodbuster, 86-84, on Sunday.
The KaTropa entered their game against Mahindra averaging 115.5 points on 46.5% shooting for their past four contests. However, they found points hard to come by against the Floodbuster's surprisingly stingy defense.
A strong stretch late in the fourth quarter, and a crucial defensive stop on Alex Mallari, proved enough to hand TNT the win, but their performance was below their usual standards.
"During the half time, I was telling the team that this is the time to build and develop good habits during the game," Racela said after the game. "Obviously, today we weren't able to that."
"A lot of mistakes pa rin," he lamented. "It's just good that we're getting wins, despite playing that way."
TNT shot only 38% from the field, with import Donte Greene making only eight of his 24 field goals. Jayson Castro had 10 points and seven assists, but also committed five turnovers – including a crucial one with 43 seconds to go that gave Mahindra a lifeline.
"Jayson committed a lot of mistakes in the end," said Racela. "He gambled, especially in the last two possessions. That's something that we're starting to learn: despite struggles, (how to) still get a win."
"Today was an example of that," he added.
Castro, like his coach, was honest in his assessment of their performance.
"Maganda rin naman ang defense ng Mahindra, pero ayun nga, 'yung sa team namin, marami kaming miscommunication, especially sa defense," he admitted. "And then ang offense naming, may mga wide open naman, hindi lang pumapasok."
[Mahindra's defense was good, but we also had a lot of miscommunication on defense. On offense, we missed a lot of wide open shots.]
The star point guard said they will take the victory – "A win is a win, sabi nga nila," he noted – but was quick to add that their game against Mahindra was an indication that they have a lot of things that they need to work on.
"More on focus pa siguro sa defense, kasi 'yun ang laging ine-emphasize ni coach," he said. "Kasi, once na nashu-shoot-an kami or masama ang depensa namin, buong team nagi-struggle talaga."
[We need to focus on defense, that's what coach always emphasizes. Once a team makes a shot against us or if we play bad defense, that's when we really struggle.]
TNT currently has a 4-1 record, good for a share of fourth place in the league standings.
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