MANILA, Philippines – A bout with flu kept Joshua Smith from starting in TNT KaTropa's quarterfinal game against Meralco on Monday, but the wide-bodied import still made his presence felt in what turned out to be a 102-84 win for his team.
"I wasn't 100% today," Smith acknowledged after the game. "But I wasn't going to let my teammates go out there by themselves. I tried to do whatever I can to help."
"There's no excuse," he stressed. "You play even if you're 100% or not. I couldn't let my teammates go out there by themselves, so I did what I can."
Smith didn't come into the game until the 7:29 mark of the first period, at which point TNT was clinging to an 8-6 lead. By the end of the first quarter, they were up 25-13, and went on to take a 42-27 halftime advantage.
Meralco came close in the third period, but a steady stream of and-1 plays by Smith as well as three-pointers by RR Garcia kept the Bolts at bay.
The win gave TNT a 1-0 lead in their best-of-3 PBA Commissioner's Cup quarterfinal series.
Even at less than 100%, Smith still outplayed his Meralco counterpart Alex Stepheson, who had 16 rebounds but only nine points on 4-of-11 shooting.
"We were planning on starting him, of course," TNT coach Nash Racela said of Smith. "But we adjusted before the adjustments, and I think today, it worked for us."
Coming off the bench was of no concern to Smith, who finished with 19 points, three rebounds, and three assists to go with his perfect 3-0 record as TNT's reinforcement this conference.
"They brought me in to be aggressive and try to help the team win, and as long as I'm able when I go out there, I'm gonna be aggressive," he promised. "Whether it's scoring, passing, or rebounding, I'll do it to help the team win."
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