MANILA, Philippines -- Expected to miss the rest of the PBA Philippine Cup finals after a bad landing last Sunday, TNT forward Troy Rosario instead started in the crucial Game 4 of their series against the Magnolia Hotshots.
Rosario, who suffered a dislocated finger and spinal shock in Game 3, was far from his best and played just 19 minutes. He went 2-of-6 from the field for five points, three rebounds, and an assist.
For TNT coach Chot Reyes, however, Rosario's contributions could not be measured by the numbers he put up, as his presence on the court gave the Tropang GIGA the boost they needed to take charge of the best-of-seven series anew.
"Really though, he shouldn't be playing," Reyes said of Rosario, who was deemed "doubtful" to play after his injury in Game 3.
"The reason why we played him was really, was for inspirational purposes," Reyes admitted. "As you can see, he couldn't even catch the ball."
"But he said he wanted to try, and I thought by him being there, the message of courage was going to rub off on his teammates. So really, great heart shown by Troy here, and I think everyone followed," he added.
TNT rode a huge second quarter to take Game 4, 106-89, and moved on the cusp of winning the 2021 All-Filipino crown. While Rosario was limited, TNT rookie Mikey Williams stayed on point as he fired 26 points on top of seven assists, while Jayson Castro had 12 points off the bench.
It was veteran Ryan Reyes who sparked their breakaway as he scored all 10 of his points in the second quarter, along with four steals.
Reyes said that Rosario was a game-time decision, but the forward assured him that he was "ready to go." The TNT coaching staff opted to start Rosario rather than risk cooling him down by bringing him off the bench, a gambit that worked.
"If you asked me yesterday, I told everyone he's a very doubtful starter, but today, I think the therapy worked and he said he started feeling better," the coach said.
"(He) still did not have a hundred percent sensation in both his legs, and you could see by the way he played today – he couldn't catch the ball, he was really kind of tender-footed," Reyes added.
"But again, it was more than the skills for Troy for our team tonight."
The Tropang GIGA will try to close out the series on Friday night. If successful, it will be their first PBA title since the 2015 PBA Commissioner's Cup, and their first All-Filipino crown since the 2012-13 season.