MANILA, Philippines – Rondae Hollis-Jefferson hung 40 points on Meralco and pushed TNT on the cusp of advancing to the finals of the PBA Governors’ Cup following a 99-80 romp at the Araneta Coliseum on Wednesday, March 29.
Hollis-Jefferson notched his conference-high in points on a 14-of-27 clip and added 13 rebounds as he redeemed himself from his shooting woes the last time out to lead the Tropang Giga to a 2-1 edge in the best-of-five duel.
In their 124-117 overtime loss that tied the series at 1-1, the former NBA player scored 27 points on a poor 30% and missed crucial free throws that would have given his side the win in regulation.
But Hollis-Jefferson came out with guns blazing in Game 3, erupting for 24 points in the first half alone to power the wire-to-wire victory that put TNT in position to arrange a finals date with defending champion Barangay Ginebra.
Tropang Giga head coach Jojo Lastimosa, though, knows booking a ticket to the championship round is easier said than done.
“I’m telling you, I’ve been in a situation I played, I’ve been in a situation where I was an assistant coach, and the closeout game is always hard, we always talk about that,” said Lastimosa.
“For some reason, there is just a different feel when you’re trying to close out a game because we know that the other team is also desperate.”
With Hollis-Jefferson at the forefront of their attack, TNT built a commanding 56-30 halftime cushion – their biggest of the game – and the Bolts failed to recover owing to their cold shooting from deep.
Meralco fired blanks from long range, missing all of its 18 triples in the first half and ending the game making just five of 33 three-pointers for a dismal 15%.
Although the Bolts limited the Tropang Giga to under 100 points for the first time in 12 games, TNT also thrived on the defensive end, holding down Meralco to its lowest-tying scoring output of the conference.
“We can also play the game like they do,” said Lastimosa. “They’re a defensive team, we can also be a defensive grind-out team like tonight.”
Mikey Williams joined Hollis-Jefferson in the scoring spree with a conference-high-tying 29 points on a 6-of-15 clip from beyond the arc.
Jayson Castro added 7 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 steals in the win, while Roger Pogoy chimed in 7 points and 5 rebounds.
Meralco narrowed the gap to 12 points early in the fourth quarter off a KJ McDaniels dunk, 66-78, but TNT answered with a 13-4 run highlighted by 8 points from Hollis-Jefferson to seal the deal.
After scoring 39 points last game, McDaniels posted 30 points, 10 rebounds, and 4 blocks to anchor the Bolts anew, but he was a little too late as his 19 points came in the second half when the result was practically decided.
Chris Newsome netted 12 points with 5 rebounds and 5 assists in the loss, while Aaron Black put up an 11-point, 11-rebound double-double.
TNT 99 – Hollis-Jefferson 40, M.Williams 29, Pogoy 7, Castro 7, Oftana 4, Erram 4, Khobuntin 3, Montalbo 3, Chua 2, Varilla 0, Ganuelas-Rosser 0.
Meralco 80 – McDaniels 30, Newsome 12, Black 11, Hodge 11, Maliksi 4, Almazan 3, Caram 3, Pasaol 3, Jose 2, Quinto 1, Banchero 0, Pascual 0.
Quarters: 30-15, 56-30, 75-59, 99-80.
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