MANILA, Philippines – Called out for being "absent" by his head coach, TNT star Jayson Castro responded big time in the crucial Game 4 of the 2017 PBA Commissioner's Cup Finals against the San Miguel Beermen on Wednesday night.
The usually superb Castro embodied TNT's struggles in Game 3 of the best-of-seven series, as he needed 18 shots to score 17 points, while having more turnovers (10) than rebounds and assists combined (six). Castro was a team-worst -19 in that game, and San Miguel rolled to a 109-97 win.
"Sabi ko nga, 'Jayson, we won't win if you are absent, so we need you on the floor,'" said Racela on Wednesday night. "I don't really require them to play an excellent ball game, but at least, let's be decent, tapos contribute lang tayo."
"Today, there was a turnaround," the coach said. "I think Jayson was more aggressive and he was looking for his shots."
Racela brought Castro off the bench in Game 4, and the guard responded with a far better effort. He scored 17 points – 10 of which came in the final quarter – while making seven of his 12 field goals. He was at his best in crunch time, as he kept the Beermen at bay with timely buckets.
His best moment came with 1:45 left, when Castro drove baseline, shrugging off all SMB defenders, before lofting up a right-handed lay-up with his back to the basket to put TNT ahead, 101-93. The KaTropa wound up with a 102-97 win to tie the best-of-seven Finals series at two games apiece.
"As a veteran, siyempre alam ko naman na ang sama ng nilaro ko noong Game 3," said Castro, who admitted that he needed to make adjustments after being forced into 10 turnovers by the SMB defense last Sunday night.
"So nag-apologize ako sa mga teammates ko," he revealed. "Dapat ako 'yung leader, 'yung mindset ko, andoon. So this game, sabi ko sa kanila, babawi ako, at maging example din – ipakita ko rin na even though masama 'yung game ko, kailangan ko pa ring maging confident."
"Confident naman ako sa mga shots ko, at saka sa defense ko. Kaya ko naman umi-stop."
(As a veteran, I know I played poorly in Game 3. I apologized to my teammates for that. I should be the leader, so I should have the right mindset. I told them I was going to make up for it in this game. I also wanted to serve as an example, to show that I still have my confidence even after that bad game.)
Castro walked the talk, and his teammates followed his lead. In particular, rookie Roger Pogoy broke out of a slump to score 14 points on 6-of-9 shooting, after having missed his last 18 field goals in the series.
"Si Pogoy, ine-encourage pa rin namin na itira 'yung mga wide open [shots], at saka maging aggressive lang siya," said Castro. "Alam naman naming kaya niyang maging aggressive talaga."
(We always encourage Pogoy to take those wide open shots and be aggressive.)
More than his own performance, what is truly important for Castro is that they had knotted up the series instead of going down 1-3.
"'Yun 'yung pinaka iniiwasan namin, 'yung 1-3," he admitted. "Na-tie namin 'yung series, so parang best-of-3 na lang. Siguro, ang nagpanalo din sa amin this game ay 'yung focus namin at saka 'yung composure namin."
"And then, halos lahat kami, nag-contribute as a team talaga. Kahit sinong ipasok, nakaka-contribute. 'Yun din 'yung malaking bagay sa amin."
(We wanted to avoid going down 1-3. So now, we tied the series, and it's virtually a best-of-3. I think the key tonight was our focus and composure, and how we worked as a team. Everyone who was fielded in contributed, and that was a big factor for us.)
Game 5 of the series is on Friday at the Araneta Coliseum.
(For more sports coverage, visit the ABS-CBN Sports website.)