Mendoza: A different TNT under Chot

·2 min read

With Chot Reyes back, the complexion of the series quickly changed.

The famed TNT assault of run-and-gun got unleashed as soon as the starting gun barked.

Thus, smarting from back-to-back losses not of Chot’s making, the Tropang Giga were in revenge mode all night long.

That’s what sets Chot apart from his deputy, Sandy Arespacochaga.

While Sandy is a bit anticipatory, not Chot. Chot doesn’t wait for blood to spill before he mounts his attack. He imagines blood spurting somewhere, prodding him to hunt for his prey like a shark gone mad. Chot smells blood even before the first wound is inflicted. Proactive.

And for that, San Miguel Beer, known for its deliberate, methodical and calculated play, was practically caught flat-footed.

Result: Game 4 last Sunday went TNT’s way in a rousing 100-87 victory that made it 2-2, reducing the seven-game Finals into a Best-of-3 for the coveted PBA Philippine Cup.

More than 10,000 fans left the Smart Araneta Coliseum shaking their heads in disbelief, endlessly figuring out what went wrong with San Miguel.

But nothing much went wrong, indeed.

The Beermen were simply outgunned, their sputtering start immediately evident after the Tropang Giga erased a 2-0 deficit and built an 18-7 spread.

A stifling double-team on Beerman June Mar Fajardo, earlier voted as the Best Player of the conference a record ninth time, keyed TNT’s early breakaway.

So shackled was the 6-foot-10 Fajardo, with the fire-breathing Jayson Castro sneaking sharply from June Mar’s blindside without letup, that the SMB cornerstone dubbed the gentle giant managed only two points in the entire first period through a quarter-ending jumper that pegged the count at 18-9 in TNT’s favor.

It was the same story in the second quarter, TNT speeding to an 18-point lead, 34-16, in the first five minutes behind Castro’s blazing eight points.

Although San Miguel managed to bounce back and even led by a point twice in the third quarter, TNT couldn’t be restrained and, after re-grabbing an 89-73 margin at the six-minute mark in the fourth, it became downhill all the way for the Beermen.

Unless SMB finds a way to neutralize Castro (26 points in Game 4) and Chot’s coaching dexterity that produced only three TNT turnovers as against 24 in Game 4, Wednesday’s Game 5 might yet go TNT’s way again.

Not far-fetched?