TNT completed a comeback from a 16-point first quarter hole and carved out a narrow 84-80 win to remain undefeated in the 2021 PBA Philippine Cup Sunday at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig.
Troy Rosario scored 10 of his 15 points in the final frame to lead the Tropang Giga fightback, including a late putback in the final two minutes that served as the last field goal for either team. He also added eight boards and an assist in the win.
Roger Pogoy added 13 points on 6-for-12 shooting along with four rebounds, three steals and an assist, while Jayson Castro contributed 10 points, nine assists, five rebounds and a steal in 32 minutes off the bench to help the Tropang Giga move to 3-0 in the conference.
Down 82-80 in the last 22.6 seconds, the Fuel Masters still had a shot to send the game into overtime but fell short as Jason Perkins failed to shake off Pogoy's standout defense in the last four ticks. Kib Montalbo's free throws not long after sealed the deal for TNT.
"I thought Phoenix came in with an excellent game plan. They prepared for us really well and did exactly how they wanted to do things," head coach Chot Reyes remarked after the game.
TNT trailed Phoenix 77-70 early in the fourth quarter before Rosario went on a personal 8-0 run to give his side the lead in the final 4:52.
A Pogoy layup extended that lead to 80-77 later on, but RJ Jazul hit a three with 3:09 remaining to tie the contest and keep the Fuel Masters alive.
After Rosario cleaned up a Mikey Williams miss in the last 1:52, Phoenix failed to convert on a pair of good looks from Perkins and Matthew Wright that would have tied the game in the last minute of the contest.
Another Williams miss on a wild shot off the timeout with 29 seconds remaining gave Phoenix an opportunity to tie or win it, but the team could not get a good shot off following a timeout.
"We started the game really, really flat. I guess it's just the rigors of playing a game two days ago and having only a one-day break," Reyes noted.
"We're not yet at that level, at the stage where we can come in and play successive games well at this point, I guess," he continued. "The good thing is that even when they went up big, we just kept at it and I just kept throwing players in."
Phoenix, meanwhile, slid to 1-4 after dropping a second consecutive loss. Wright paced the team with 15 points on 6-for-14 shots, five rebounds and three assists, but the Fil-Canadian guard turned the ball over seven times.
Perkins finished with 14 points, six boards and three dimes, and Vic Manuel put up all of his 13 points in the first half and added nine rebounds, four assists and a block, although he did have six turnovers too.
The Fuel Masters failed to sustain a tremendous start to the game in the first quarter, where they rolled to a 24-8 start to the game courtesy of a 10-point first quarter from Manuel. TNT, though, shrugged off the slow start by outscoring Phoenix 9-2 to end the opening period down by just nine, 26-17.
TNT continued hacking away at the lead and pulled within five at the half, then an up-and-down third quarter resulted in a brief two-point lead midway through before slowing down a bit to enter the fourth period behind by three, 63-60.
Williams hit a triple to slice the lead to 72-70, but a Melecio triple and a Perkins bucket pushed Phoenix's lead to seven in the final 6:59 and set the stage for a back-and-forth battle down the stretch.
Even after TNT successfully overhauled a double-digit deficit and solidified its hold of the second seed with an immaculate record, Reyes does not believe his team has been able to "string four good quarters together."
"Still a long way to go," the eight-time PBA champion coach replied when asked for an assessment of his team's performance at this point in the conference. "Apparently, as you can see, I don't think we've played even three good quarters. I know we were able to play a couple of good quarters. Today we played the second quarter really well. I thought we played the fourth quarter well. But we're at the stage where we should be able to string four good quarters together."
"Secondly, I also think that we just need to get mentally tougher in situations like this," he added. "I know we were tired, I know that Phoenix has had more rest than we had, but there's no excuse for us to start like that."
TNT 84 - Rosario 15, Pogoy 13, Castro 10, Khobuntin 9, M.Williams 9, K.Williams 8, M. Marcelo 6, Marcelo 6, Montalbo 5, Exciminiano 3, Alejandro 3, Erram 3, Heruela 0.
Phoenix 80 - , Wright 15, Perkins 14, Manuel 13, Banchero 12, Melecio 11, Jazul 6, Pascual 3, Demusis 2, Chua 2, , Rios 2, Garcia 0.
Quarters : 17-26, 40-45, 60-63, 84-80.
- TNT, the league-leader in steals heading into its matchup against Phoenix on Sunday, tallied 13 swipes and forced the Fuel Masters to commit 21 turnovers against just 19 assists. The Tropang Giga collected 26 points off miscues as a result.
- TNT also won despite shooting just 37 percent from the field and hitting only 8-of-31 3s (25.8 percent). Phoenix went 43.2 percent from the field on their end.
- TNT vs. Blackwater on Wednesday, August 4, at 12:30 p.m
- Phoenix vs. Terrafirma on Wednesday, August 4, at 6:00 p.m