By JONAS TERRADO
TNT and Rain or Shine shoot for second victories and the share of the early lead against their debuting opponents Thursday in the PBA Philippine Cup at the Ynares Center in Antipolo City.
The Tropang Giga face the Blackwater Bossing at 5:15 p.m. before the Elasto Painters meet the NorthPort Batang Pier to begin a series of games in the Rizal province.
Both teams opened the 47th season on a winning note, with TNT prevailing over Magnolia Chicken Timplados, 78-72, and Rain or Shine edging newcomer Converge, 79-77.
Coach Chot Reyes was able to steer TNT to victory even without Mikey Williams, who has yet to report amid contract negotiations between the two sides.
Reyes has said that the Tropang Giga will have to anticipate the likelihood that the Rookie of the Year winner and Most Valuable Player runner-up in Season 46 will not be around for the duration of the All-Filipino tilt.
Old reliables Troy Rosario and Jayson Castro led the Tropang Giga’s victory, and they’ll be expected to once again deliver.
Blackwater begins the season sans No. 1 overall pick Brandon Rosser, who will miss the first few games due to an injured finger he suffered while representing the country in the men’s 3×3 competitions of the Southeast Asian Games.
Rain or Shine denied Converge a first-ever win after Beau Belga knocked down a stepback three in the final seconds.
Belga, second-year players Santi Santillan and Andrei Caracut and Rey Nambatac were key in that escape act as the Elasto Painters aim to bounce back from a disappointing run in last season’s Governors’ Cup.
Santillan’s 18 points and nine rebounds could be a sign of things to come as expectations are high that the versatile big man will play a much-bigger role for ROS coach Chris Gavina.
Robert Bolick and Arwind Santos lead NorthPort’s quest to kick off the season with a win.