ANTIPOLO CITY, Philippines – TNT turned to import KJ McDaniels to eke out a 114-109 win over San Miguel and clinch the playoff bonus in the 2019 PBA Governors' Cup at the Ynares Center on Wednesday, November 20.
McDaniels came up with several clutch plays on both ends as the KaTropa stopped a three-game slide and ended the elimination round with an 8-3 card to nail the last twice-to-beat quarterfinals incentive.
Churning out 44 points, 12 rebounds, 6 assists, 5 blocks, and 2 steals, McDaniels answered the call whenever TNT needed him, calmly sinking two free throws to give his side a 112-109 lead with 11 ticks left.
McDaniels then blocked a potential game-tying three-point attempt by Beermen import John Holland, paving the way for Ryan Reyes to get fouled and seal the win for the KaTropa with a pair of foul shots.
Troy Rosario backstopped McDaniels with 30 points on 7 triples to go with 10 rebounds, while Roger Pogoy had 17 points, 7 rebounds, and 4 steals in the win.
Surprisingly returning from a calf injury that was expected to sideline him until the end of the month, Jayson Castro also gave a huge boost for TNT, chalking up 12 points, 11 assists, and 9 rebounds.
Castro barely looked like he came off an injury, starting for the team and helped set the pace for the KaTropa, who led by as many as 18 points, 78-60, in the second half.
But San Miguel never wavered, slowly but surely chipping away at its deficit before taking a 108-107 lead off back-to-back three-pointers from Chris Ross and Holland with less than a minute remaining.
That was when McDaniels, who scored 18 of their 27 fourth-quarter points, took over, draining a triple that put his team back in the front seat as June Mar Fajardo failed to tie the game for the Beermen with a split at the line.
Landing at the No. 3 spot, TNT will face have two chances to advance and dethrone No. 6 Magnolia, the defending Governors' Cup champion.
Holland put up 25 points, 11 rebounds, and 6 steals for San Miguel, which wrapped up the elimination round at No. 5 and will face a twice-to-beat disadvantage against No. 4 Barangay Ginebra.
The Beermen played without key cogs Arwind Santos, Kelly Nabong, and Ronald Tubid, who were indefinitely suspended on Wednesday by the ball club for their involvement in a fracas during a team practice.
Ross and Marcio Lassiter each had 16 points in the loss, Terrence Romeo added 18 points off the bench, as Fajardo contributed 13 points and 10 rebounds.
TNT 114 - McDaniels 44, Rosario 30, Pogoy 17, Castro 12; Reyes 5, Parks 4, Washington 2, Williams 0, Digregorio 0, De Leon 0.
San Miguel 109 - Holland 25, Romeo 18, Ross 16, Lassiter 16, Fajardo 13, Cabagnot 12, Tautuaa 8, Rosser 1, Pessumal 0.
Quarters: 37-25, 53-46, 87-77, 114-109.
Delfin Dioquino dreamt of being a PBA player, but he did not have the skills to make it. So he pursued the next best thing to being an athlete – to write about them. He took up journalism at the University of Santo Tomas and joined Rappler as soon as he graduated in 2017.