By JONAS TERRADO
TNT rode on a sizzling start and scored a convincing 88-70 win over Magnolia Pambansang Manok in the opener of the PBA Philippine Cup Finals Wednesday at the Don Honorio Ventura State University in Bacolor, Pampanga.
The Tropang Giga scored the first seven points before stretching the gap to 20-2 in the first seven minutes that eventually resulted in a blowout victory that was seen during the latter part of their hard-fought semifinal series with the San Miguel Beermen.
Rookie guard Mikey Williams, who shot just 32 percent against SMB, was in the zone as he knocked down a game-high 21 points on 8-of-15 shooting while adding 10 rebounds, five assists and two steals to play a big role in TNT gaining a headstart in the best-of-seven series.
But the win was somehow dampened when Kelly Williams, who scored five of his 10 points during TNT’s big start and added six rebounds and three assists, hurt his back while going for a dunk in the second half.
Williams, who has provided the needed intangibles since returning to the semis, had to be brought to the hospital on a stretcher, his status for Game 2 is in doubt.
Fellow starters RR Pogoy, Troy Rosario and Kib Montalbo and reserves Poy Erram, Jayson Castro and Ryan Reyes also did their share in setting up TNT’s victory that saw Magnolia make just 28 percent of its shots.
Magnolia, well-rested after finishing off Meralco in six games of their semis series, never made any threats to make Game 1 a competitive affair, especially with big man Ian Sangalang struggling.
Sangalang scored just five points in 10 minutes before coach Chito Victolero opted to sit Magnolia’s most consistent performer in the semis for the rest of the second half.
Paul Lee scored 12 points, sharing the team-high with Jackson Corpuz, but was 3-of-12 from the field while Calvin Abueva posted a quiet 11-point, 11-rebound night.
Like Kelly Williams, Montalbo and Pogoy scored five points each during that huge start which ended with a basket from Poy Erram and a triple from Ryan Reyes.
Mikey Williams then made his presence felt in the second quarter, making all of his 12 points in that stretch courtesy of four triples, including back-to-back shots that made it 53-32 TNT with 55 seconds to go.
TNT led 53-34 at halftime but its fiery form continued in the third which saw the biggest lead of the match at 32 after a jumper and a triple from Mikey Williams for 73-41.
TNT 88 — M.Williams 21, Erram 14, K.Williams 10, Rosario 8, Pogoy 7, Montalbo 7, Mendoza 6, Khobuntin 5, Marcelo 4, Reyes 3, Alejandro 2, Castro 1, Heruela 0, Exciminiano 0, Javier 0.
MAGNOLIA 70 — Lee 12, Corpuz 12, Abueva 11, Dela Rosa 7, Sangalang 5, Ahanmisi 5, Barroca 4, Capobres 4, De Leon 4, Jalalon 3, Pascual 2, Brill 1, Reavis 0, Dionisio 0, Melton 0.
Quarters: 24-14, 53-34, 74-48, 88-70.