MANILA, Philippines – Roger Pogoy's brilliant start to the 2017 PBA Commissioner's Cup Finals seems so long ago now, as the TNT rookie has been held scoreless in the next two games of their best-of-seven series against San Miguel Beer.
Pogoy was superb in TNT's 104-102 win in Game 1, scoring a career-high 27 points on 10-of-20 shooting, including 5-of-9 on three-pointers.
However, he was scoreless in Game 2, missing all four of his shots as San Miguel routed the KaTropa, 102-88.
His scoring struggles continued in Game 3. Pogoy missed all of the nine shots he took, although he made up for it with 10 rebounds and three assists while still playing over 38 minutes. However, San Miguel hacked out a 109-97 win to take a 2-1 lead in the series.
"Bad game lang siguro," Pogoy said after the contest. "Bawi na lang sa next game."
[I just had a bad game. I need to bounce back next time.]
In Game 1 of the series, Pogoy took full advantage of the defensive attention on Jayson Castro and Joshua Smith to break free for open three-pointers. Since then, however, San Miguel has done a better job at closing out on him on the perimeter, which the rookie said has contributed heavily to his slump.
"Grabe lang sila mag-close out," said Pogoy, as nearly every one of his attempts came with a hand on his face. "Dati kasi, pinapabayaan lang ako. Ngayon, grabe na sila mag-close out, so ayun. May challenge na talaga. Kapag tumitira ako, may challenge na talaga."
[They are closing out on me whenever I take a shot. Before, I would be free to take the shot. Now, they're closing out and challenging me whenever I shoot.]
Pogoy, however, is not too concerned about his shooting slump. In any case, scoring is not his primary role in TNT, which already has several scorers such as Castro and Ranidel De Ocampo.
"Ang trabaho ko talaga dito sa team ay 'yung depensa and 'yung mga little things. Rebound, depensa," he explained. "So parang bonus na lang sa akin kung maka-score ako ng malaki."
"Basta kapag maglaro ako, ang mindset ko ay depensa," he added. "Sunod na lang 'yung offense. Ganoon talaga parati ang mindset ko."
[My job in this team is to defend and do the little things, like rebounding. It's a bonus whenever I score. My mindset in every game is to defend, and the offense will follow.]
Even TNT coach Nash Racela made it clear that they are not sweating their rookie guard's scoreless outing in their past two games.
"Okay lang," said Racela, who has guided Pogoy's development into a superb two-way player while coaching the Far Eastern University Tamaraws in the UAAP. "As long as he's making the right decisions and taking the shots that he needs to take."
"Kung open, ganoon. If it doesn't go in, walang problema, ganoon talaga," he added.
[It's okay, as long as he is making the right decisions and taking the shots that he needs to take. If he's open and his shot still doesn't fall, then that's just how it is. It's not a problem.]
Castro, who had 17 points in their Game 3 loss, said he has been trying to encourage Pogoy even as he pointed out that it is not unusual for a rookie to struggle in the PBA Finals.
"First Finals appearance niya," said Castro. "Ine-encourage ko pa rin na maging focused lang. Mangyayari talaga 'yun."
[This is his first Finals appearance. I still encourage him to just stay focused. These things happen.]
Pogoy will keep trying to do his job for TNT when they return to action on Wednesday for Game 4, with the hope that his offense will work itself out.
"Basta magawa ko lang ang trabaho ko, at saka manalo kami," he said.
[I will just do my job and hope we win the game.]
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