There will be no respite for TNT rookie Mikey Williams as he gears up for the suffocating defense of the Magnolia guards in the 2021 PBA Philippine Cup Finals.
Williams, the fourth overall pick in the PBA Rookie Draft this year, faced off against one of the best defenders in the league in Chris Ross during TNT's seven-game series against San Miguel in the semifinals.
With Ross sticking to him, Williams saw his scoring and efficiency take a dip. After averaging 18.4 points per game in the elimination round where he emerged as a candidate for Best Player of the Conference, he only put up 13.9 points in the semis on 32% shooting from the field.
He made up for it with increased assist and rebounding numbers, and got his offense on track in their Game 7 win, but it was clear that the San Miguel defense was tough to deal with for the Filipino-American guard.
In the finals, he will be up against more stout defenders in Magnolia's Mark Barroca and Jio Jalalon, the anchors of a gritty press that forces teams into over 16 turnovers per game.
"I know it's gonna be another challenge," said Williams. "They're both really good defenders. They put a lot of pressure on teams."
Barroca and Jalalon figure to be the primary defenders against Williams, who in just his very first conference has already proven that he is among the best scorers in the league. But Magnolia can also count on bigger players such as Rome dela Rosa or even Calvin Abueva to defend Williams.
"It's just (about) trying to manage and figure out ways to beat their press," the guard said of the challenge in front of him. "I know they're gonna be really pesky, and really up in our faces."
"If we manage and control that and figure out ways to neutralize that, I think we'll be fine," Williams added.
Even as he acknowledged that he will be in for a big challenge in the finals, Williams also can't wait to get the series started.
"This is gonna be my first experience in the finals," said Williams, who previously played in the ABL and the MPBL before declaring for the PBA Draft this year. "We put a lot of work, a lot of preparation in."
"It's gonna be an experience, and I'm definitely excited to get started," he added.
Game 1 of the best-of-seven series is on Wednesday at 6 p.m.