ANTIPOLO CITY, Philippines – KJ McDaniels was a man on a mission as TNT avoided the upset axe from Alaska to stay unbeaten in the PBA Governors' Cup.
The former NBA player chalked up 37 points, 13 rebounds, 6 blocks, 5 assists, and 3 steals in the 99-93 victory on Friday, October 18 – including the shot that forged an extra period and 8 points in overtime.
While winning was the main concern, it was more than that for McDaniels.
Prior to his late-game takeover, McDaniels got into a physical altercation with Kevin Racal that saw the import get inadvertently hit in the face midway through the 4th period.
McDaniels passed the ball after forcing a turnover before Racal, who was attempting for a steal, got a piece of his head.
Frustrated because of the hit, McDaniels warded off Racal, but was instead whistled for a technical foul for second motion.
The call, though, proved to be the turning point for McDaniels as he scored all of his 8 points – capped by the overtime-forcing layup – in the 4th quarter after the incident and erupted for another 8 points in the extra period.
"A little bit. Yeah, it fired me up," said McDaniels when asked if he was motivated after the heated exchange.
"But I know it's a competitive league and I was expecting that when I came here. Anytime anyone does that, it definitely puts a spark under me."
"Just got to stay in my head and just keep fighting through and not react."
The win pushed KaTropa to an immaculate 7-0 record – the first time the franchise went unbeaten in its first 7 games since the PBA expanded to 12 teams.
But McDaniels said there is plenty of room for improvement, proven by the close calls in their last couple of games.
TNT narrowly escaped Meralco and NorthPort by 3 points and defeated Columbian and Phoenix by only 5 points in their respective meetings.
"I feel like we just got to go back to the film, keep learning, keep pushing each other. Hopefully one of these games, we'll just take off," McDaniels said.
"We just got to stay together defensively, keep talking, and we'll get better. I have a lot of confidence in my team that we'll get better, everybody's willing to learn and you know, that's the most important thing."
TNT will have its mettle tested by No. 2 NLEX at the Araneta Coliseum next Friday, October 25. – Rappler.com
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.