PBA: Onto the 'next problem' for top-seeded TNT

Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 30 2021 01:32 PM

After powering past Barangay Ginebra, Troy Rosario and the TNT Tropang GIGA are preparing for either San Miguel or NorthPort. PBA Media Bureau.
After powering past Barangay Ginebra, Troy Rosario and the TNT Tropang GIGA are preparing for either San Miguel or NorthPort. PBA Media Bureau.

After eliminating defending champion Barangay Ginebra, top-seeded TNT Tropang GIGA are already bracing for their "next problem" in the 2021 PBA Philippine Cup.

TNT has been the most impressive team so far in the conference and they carried their strong form into the quarterfinals. Though armed with a twice-to-beat advantage, the Tropang GIGA immediately took care of business in beating the Gin Kings, 84-71.

"The game was a lot harder than the score indicated," said TNT coach Chot Reyes, who lauded the Gin Kings for their fighting spirit while playing with a shorthanded roster.

TNT is now waiting for the winner of the best-of-3 quarterfinal series against San Miguel and NorthPort, where the Beermen hold a 1-0 lead. The semifinals are a best-of-7 affair.

Reyes noted that the road does not get any easier for them even after ousting the defending champions from the playoffs.

"As much as we'd like to be happy over beating Ginebra, we know that there's another tough opponent ahead," said the coach. "That's another big mountain for us to climb and to prepare for."

Be it NorthPort or San Miguel, Reyes said they are in for a difficult match-up. They beat NorthPort, 102-92, in the elimination round, but the Batang Pier were without Greg Slaughter in that game. 

San Miguel, meanwhile, was the only team to have beaten TNT in the elimination round -- and it was not a particularly close game. Behind big games from Marcio Lassiter and Terrence Romeo, San Miguel routed TNT, 83-67.

"San Miguel kicked our butt in the elimination round. I mean, it wasn't even close," Reyes recalled. "They beat us, and they beat us badly."

"That's why I said we have our work cut out for us if it's going to be San Miguel. We just beat the defending champions, but San Miguel is what, the five-time champion before Ginebra won it last conference," he pointed out.

"And NorthPort, if you remember our elimination round game, they gave us a lot of problems."

Either team will be a big problem for TNT, quite literally, as they feature two of the best big men in the league. Slaughter has been shining in his first conference with NorthPort, while six-time MVP June Mar Fajardo is rounding into form for San Miguel after suffering a serious leg injury last year.

"(It's) either June Mar or Greg. And so that's the problem that we are going to try to solve now in this break. We just finished one problem, now it's on to the next problem," said Reyes. 

San Miguel and NorthPort meet again on Thursday afternoon for Game 2 of their quarterfinal series. The Beermen won Game 1, 88-87, on a game-winning jumper by Alex Cabagnot.