Smith, Castro power TNT to win over SMB, tie PBA Finals at 2-2
MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Import Joshua Smith relied on his toughness while Jayson Castro paced the offense down the stretch as the TNT KaTropa prevailed over the San Miguel Beermen in Game 4, 102-97, to tie the best-of-7 2017 PBA Commissioner's Cup Finals series at two games apiece on Wednesday, June 28 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Smith finished with 20 points and 15 rebounds to lead all TNT scorers. He had the last laugh against counterpart, newly-minted Best Import Charles Rhodes, who was ejected with about a minute remaining after incurring his second technical foul of the ballgame.
Castro put up 17 points off the bench, likewise besting the guard opposite him, freshly-crowned Best Player of the Conference Chris Ross, who settled for just 8 points and 4 assists on 3-of-9 shooting.
"After they got their awards, I huddled the team and just told them, ‘Let them get all the individual awards and let’s get the team awards.’ For us that’s the more important thing," said head coach Nash Racela.
All of TNT's starters wound up in double figures with RR Pogoy scoring 14, finally breaking out of his two-game offensive slump on the heels of a career game in the series opener.
Young and veteran forwards Troy Rosario and Ranidel de Ocampo also came through with 13 points each and 8 rebounds between them. RR Garcia added 10 markers.
Rhodes posted 22 points and pulled down 8 rebounds despite his ejection, while Alex Cabagnot dropped 18 markers, tracked down 6 boards, and dished out 5 assists.
Marcio Lassiter had a 14-point, 7-rebound game but the Beermen's guards weren't enough to lock down defensively and bail them out on offense this time around.
San Miguel needed its reigning 3-time MVP center June Mar Fajardo, but he was hampered by foul trouble, eventually picking up his sixth foul with still over two minutes remaining and the Beermen trailing by only 5. What's worse, that foul gave Smith a crucial 3-point play that made it an 8-point game.
Fajardo exited with just 13 points and 9 rebounds to his name, but also with 5 turnovers and the Beermen getting outscored by 4 in his 27 minutes on the floor.
"I guess the big impact is with our big men," SMB coach Leo Austria conceded. "They got into foul trouble early in the first quarter. June Mar got two fouls already in the first quarter and followed by Charles. And we have a big problem because if they are in foul trouble so Smith really can dominate the shaded area."
Arwind Santos also struggled with just 12 points, sitting for 3 minutes early in the fourth due to a flagrant foul penalty 1 he incurred in a heated rebound play with Smith.
San Miguel, after rallying from a Game 1 loss to win back-to-back and lead the series 2-1, quieted down and shot 8-of-35 from deep.
Game 5 will be played at 7 pm on Friday, June 30, at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
TNT (102): Smith 20, Castro 17, Pogoy 14, Rosario 13, R. De Ocampo 13, Garcia 10, Tautuaa 6, Rosales 3, Reyes 3, Williams 2, Semerad 1, Carey 0.
San Miguel (97): Rhodes 22, Cabagnot 18, Lassiter 14, Fajardo 13, Santos 12, Ross 8, Y. De Ocampo 4, Tubid 3, Heruela 3, Espinas 0, Semerad 0, McCarthy 0, Van Opstal 0, Agovida 0.
Quarter scores: 27-24, 49-47, 73-76, 102-97.