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MANILA, Philippines – The TNT Tropang Giga are not playing winning basketball as of late.
Plagued by import woes and general inconsistency throughout the PBA Commissioner’s Cup, Manny V. Pangilinan’s flagship franchise limped to the quarterfinals with a 5-6 record as the eighth and final seed before promptly bowing out to top-ranked Magnolia off a 94-109 blowout last Wednesday, January 17.
TNT, however, still has somewhat of a redemption chance lined up just seven days from that ouster on January 24 as the East Asia Super League (EASL) resumes with the Korean Basketball League’s (KBL) Anyang Jung Kwan Jang taking on the Tropang Giga on their home turf at the PhilSports Arena.
With the Red Boosters’ import Rhenz Abando still out of commission due to a harrowing spinal injury, TNT will likely have a better fighting chance as the Gilas Pilipinas high-flyer’s 9.5 points per game average and intangible energy will definitely be missed by Anyang at some point in its next encounter.
The Tropang Giga will definitely need every advantage they can get as they are facing elimination at the Red Boosters’ hands.
Anyang, in turn, is also keen on evading a lower-rank logjam and clinching an outright Final Four berth as it only holds a 2-2 record.
“We’re preparing for all scenarios and making sure we respect the talent that Anyang brings to the court,” said TNT team manager Jojo Lastimosa, who has also noted that reinstated head coach Chot Reyes will not yet be making his sideline return.
TNT will once again rely on import Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson as his brother Rondae, although allowed to play under EASL’s two-import limit, is still on the mend from a neck injury he suffered against Taiwan P.League+ squad Taipei Fubon last December 20.
Meanwhile, Anyang, in Abando’s absence, will lean on imports Omari Spellman and Darryl Monroe, while locals such as Ji Hoon Park and Sung-Won Choi are also on top of opponents’ scouting reports.
“We expect them (Red Boosters) to come out aggressively as they also have a lot at stake in this match,” added Lastimosa, who is giving up the head coaching reins for now to deputy Josh Reyes.
With a win, TNT will still not have its fate back in its hands as it also needs Anyang to lose its final regular season assignment against Taipei Fubon to forge a three-way tie at second place and trigger tiebreaker rules. – Rappler.com