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TNT needs Rosario to break his slump

The TNT Tropang Giga zoomed their way to the finals by overwhelming opponents with offensive firepower coming from all fronts and tenacious defensive pressure that transformed passing lanes into impenetrable fortresses.

The Tropang Giga, possessing one of the most complete lineups in the PBA, are most dangerous when they are clicking on all cylinders. They become a nightmare for opposing defense which is forced to pick its poison and just resign itself to the inevitable that any combination of the Tropang Giga’s gunners will eventually hit their stride.

One key component, though, of the TNT juggernaut, Troy Rosario, has seemingly hit a slump. With him a non-factor in the equation, the Tropang Giga have become more vulnerable and less potent. 

The 6-foot-6 Rosario undoubtedly ranks among the league’s top power forwards, alongside Jason Perkins of the Phoenix Fuel Masters and Vic Manuel of Alaska. A many-time member of Gilas Pilipinas, Rosario is not only a bullstrong force in the low block, but is also a versatile scorer who can snipe from beyond the arc. Small wonder that his game has often been likened to TNT assistant coach Ranidel de Ocampo, one of the finest stretch fours in the history of Philippine basketball.

In the elimination round of the Philippine Cup, the Tropang Giga finished 3rd in the standings with a 7-4 record. Five members of the team averaged in double figures. The only other teams which had 5 players averaging in double figures were Phoenix and the NLEX Road Warriors.

Rosario was a vital cog in the Tropang Giga’s attack in their 11 games in the elimination round. In 31 minutes of play, he scored 12.27 points per game as he connected 36% from the field. 

TNT utilized the three-point shot as a major part of its arsenal as the team led the league in attempts with over 39 a game. Rosario himself stroked 5 tries from three every game. He and JP Erram provided the inside muscle for the Tropang Giga as they each normed over 8 rebounds per outing.

Rosario’s numbers, however, have dropped significantly in the playoffs. 

Although his rebounding numbers have remained solid as he has been grabbing 7 boards per game since the quarterfinals – only a slight dip from his average of 8.09 rebounds in the elims – it is Rosario’s offensive production as of late that has been nowhere close to his early output in the conference.

Rosario has been putting up a measly 7.28 points per game in the playoffs. His numbers in TNT’s last 3 games, including Game 1 of the Philippine Cup finals which they lost in overtime to Barangay Ginebra, have been atrocious, to say the least.

He has registered an average of just 4 points since Game 4 of their semifinal series against Phoenix. In that game which TNT won by a point to force a deciding Game 5, Rosario was zero out of 6 attempts from the floor to end up scoreless, the only time in the Philippine Cup that he did not score even a single point in a game. 

In TNT’s deciding win against the Fuel Masters which earned for the Tropang Giga a slot in the finals, Rosario scored 4 points after making just a solitary basket out of 8 attempts from the field.

Cognizant of Rosario’s struggles, coaching consultant Mark Dickel has looked for other options to compensate for the decrease in Rosario’s contributions. 

Dickel has given more floor time to veteran Jay Washington, who has shown vintage form by scoring 10.3 points in TNT’s last 3 games. TNT has in certain stretches of the game also fielded combinations where they put Ray Parks at the four spot to help out either Washington or Erram with the frontline chores. 

In the process, Rosario has seen a reduction in his playing time as he has been seeing action for just 23.3 minutes in their last 3 games.

With Parks reported to sit out Game 2 of the finals, the Tropang Giga will be missing 26.6 points, Parks’ average the past 6 games. (READ: Parks doubtful for Game 2 due to injury)

Rosario will need to demand for the ball and look for his shots. He has been attempting an average of just 6 shots in the last 3 games. Against an opponent like Barangay Ginebra whose defense is one of the best in the league, Rosario’s lack of aggression will simply not cut it. 

The Tropang Giga will need Rosario to get his groove back if they are to entertain any thoughts of winning Game 2 and getting back into the series. Going down 0-2 might be too huge of a deficit to overcome in a pressure-packed championship against a hungry Barangay Ginebra team that lost won the Philippine Cup in 2007. –