PBA: Despite Game 1 rout, TNT still expecting 'tough series' against much-improved Magnolia

Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 04 2022 11:41 AM

Mikey Williams of the TNT Tropang GIGA soars for a lay-up against Magnolia in their PBA Philippine Cup semifinals series. PBA Images
Mikey Williams of the TNT Tropang GIGA soars for a lay-up against Magnolia in their PBA Philippine Cup semifinals series. PBA Images

MANILA, Philippines -- They may have cruised to victory in Game 1, but TNT head coach Chot Reyes has no illusions about their semifinal series against the Magnolia Hotshots in the 2022 PBA Philippine Cup.

The Tropang GIGA have had Magnolia's number recently: they defeated the Hotshots in five games in last season's All-Filipino finals, then won their elimination round match-up this year. 

TNT extended its mastery in Game 1 of the best-of-seven semifinals series, taking a 108-96 victory behind 26 points from Mikey Williams and 23 points from Roger Pogoy. 

But Reyes warned that they cannot expect the rest of the series to play out in similar fashion.

"This is one win, and we're preparing for a long series," the coach said. 

It was a sentiment shared by Williams, who scored 18 of his 26 points in the first half to help the Tropang GIGA run out to a comfortable lead. TNT led by as much as 24 points late in the third quarter, although a late flurry by Magnolia brought down the deficit. 

"I know it's gonna be a tough series," said Williams, who made seven of his 14 field goals including four three-pointers. "That's a great team that we're playing against."

"It's gonna be scrappy, and we just gotta play through everything tough," he added.

Reyes further noted that while Magnolia retained the same core of players from last season, they have gotten stronger since then and added some key pieces who can give the Tropang GIGA trouble.

"I felt they really strengthened their team. They've added some key pieces. They have the depth in the big man spot; [James] Laput is playing really well. Adrian Wong, big addition for them, and Aris Dionisio is really giving us a lot of problems in that spot," the coach noted.

Laput was one of the few bright spots for Magnolia in Game 1, as the big man came off the bench to contribute 12 points on 5-of-6 shooting, along with eight rebounds. Dionisio had a double-double of 14 points and 13 boards, though Wong struggled with his shooting and made just one of five attempts for two points.

"They're a much-improved team," said Reyes. "I told our players before the ball game, and even before the series, that we cannot expect that this is gonna be the same as the last series."

"This is a different team, so for us to be competitive, we have to raise our level as well. Hopefully we're able to do that on a game-to-game basis," he added.

"We're not thinking of the past, we're not thinking of the last series, we're just thinking of what's in front of us. And right now, what's in front of us is Game 2."

TNT goes for a 2-0 series lead on Friday at the Araneta Coliseum.

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