TNT sends Meralco to brink of elimination with Game 1 blowout

By Dugout Philippines

QUEZON CITY--TNT KaTropa import Joshua Smith was suffering from a bum stomach, but would not let his teammates do all the work.

"I wasn't a hundred percent today, but I wasn't going to let my teammates go out there by themselves," said Smith. "I wanted to help them out."

Smith sure did, helping the KaTropa deal the Meralco Bolts a 102-84 drubbing Monday at the start of their quarterfinals duel in the PBA Commissioner's Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Jayson Castro scattered a game-high 25 points and joined hands while Smith came off the bench for 19 points in leading a balanced attack that netted TNT as much as a 93-69 spread.

The duel resumes Wednesday with TNT needing just another win to earn the right to face the winner of the other quarterfinals pairing between Barangay Ginebra and GlobalPort.

"I think offensively we were just blessed to have contributions from almost everybody. That doesn't normally happen," said KaTropa coach Nash Racela.

"Defensively, we were decent today," Racela added. "We made it hard for Meralco to make their shots. But we're expecting them to make a lot of adjustments (for Game 2)."

Chris Newsome's 21 points led Meralco, which dug itself a deep hole right in the first quarter when it made just six of 25 shots to fall behind by 25-8.

The Bolts crawled their way back to within three in the third period, but RR Garcia and Moala Tautuaa made sure the KaTropa's head stayed above water before Castro and Smith applied the finishing touches in the fourth canto to complete the wire-to-wire win.

Tautuaa registered 13 points and eight rebounds while Kelly Williams, starting in place of Smith, added 10 and seven.

In all, TNT made 39 of 77 field goal tries to Meralco's 33-of-75 shooting, with the Bolts finding their touch only in the third period when they missed only seven of their 18 tries from the floor.

But the KaTropa did not do so bad in the same canto with a 10-of-17 clip and, although it committed a total 21 turnovers, no miscue came in the payoff quarter.

"Our focus is on just doing the right things," said Racela. "Today I think we were successful in minimizing our mistakes. As a team we always talk about it. We have this tendency of giving our opponent a window, when we are leading, to catch up.

"By minimizing our mistakes we were able to control the game."

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