PBA: TNT holds off Magnolia to stay unbeaten

Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 05 2021 06:45 PM | Updated as of Sep 05 2021 07:59 PM

TNT's Kelly Williams puts up a shot against the Magnolia Hotshots. PBA Media Bureau.
TNT's Kelly Williams puts up a shot against the Magnolia Hotshots. PBA Media Bureau.

MANILA (UPDATED) - The TNT Tropang GIGA remained undefeated in the 2021 PBA Philippine Cup after fending off the Magnolia Hotshots, 83-76, on Sunday evening at the Don Honorio Ventura State University Gym in Bacolor, Pampanga.

Kelly Williams turned back the clock, putting up 13 points, 15 rebounds, three blocks and two steals in a vintage performance to lead the Tropang GIGA to their sixth consecutive win in the conference. 

This marks the first time that Chot Reyes has gotten off to a 6-0 start in his coaching career in the PBA.

Jayson Castro had 17 points and four assists, while rookie Mikey Williams contributed 14 points. Poy Erram missed out on a double-double with nine points and 10 rebounds, and hit the dagger three-pointer with just over a minute to go.

"(Magnolia) is a very hard-hustling team, Magnolia. Their strength really is their ability to outwork the other team," said Reyes afterward. "Our focus for this game became very simple -- just make sure that we outworked them."

"They do not outwork us. That at least, we're able to match their intensity. So, you know, I think we were able to do that," he added. "(There were) still some lapses… but at least, I think we didn't back down."

TNT seized control of the game late in the second quarter, when Erram nailed a jumper that gave them a 33-32 lead with 36 seconds to go. Castro then beat the buzzer for a jump shot of his own, giving the Tropang GIGA a three-point cushion, 35-32, at the half.

It was a lead that TNT wouldn't relinquish. After Magnolia got to within one point early in the third period, 36-37, Castro and Roger Pogoy sparked a quick 9-2 blast that made it 46-38. They led by as much as 13 points, 69-56, off a Castro triple with just over seven minutes to play.

Jio Jalalon and Calvin Abueva helped the Hotshots get back within striking distance, as a bucket by "The Beast" made it a six-point game, 78-72, with still a minute and 19 seconds left. But in the next possession, Erram shook off his defender and stepped back for the three-pointer that made it a nine-point game, 81-72, with just 65 seconds to go.

"I think we all did a good job of making sure we played our position," said Williams, who earned Player of the Game honors but also tweaked his ankle late while diving for a loose ball. "So it's just playing for each other, and we never really know who's gonna come out and play well. I think that's one of the strengths of our team."

The Hotshots have now lost two of their last three games since the resumption of the PBA season in a "semi-bubble" in Pampanga. Abueva finished with 23 points and six rebounds, while Paul Lee had 13 points in just 27 minutes of playing time. Magnolia shot just 36.5% from the field, including only 1-of-15 from beyond the arc.

Magnolia is now 5-2 in the conference, tied with the Meralco Bolts for a share of second place.