TNT took advantage of its bench depth to send Blackwater crashing back to earth with a 99-92 win in their 2017 PBA Philippine Cup match on Friday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Trailing by a double-digit spread, the Elite rallied back and closed in at 92-96 on a split foul shot by playmaker John Nard Pinto with 27 seconds to play.
The Katropa though managed to milk the clock, before veteran forward Ranidel de Ocampo went 3-of-4 from the foul line late in the game to book their second straight win and improve to 2-1.
On the other hand, Blackwater saw its two-game winning streak to start the conference come to a halt.
“We talked about what we wanted to build moving forward,” TNT deputy coach Josh Reyes, who still handled the coaching duties, while new coach Nash Racela was there on the bench to assist him.
“We didn’t started the way we wanted to, but this is what we need to adjust and improve. We need to come out with the right things in mind, especially intensity-wise, energy-wise and pride-wise. I’m happy the guys responded.”
Although the Katropa fell, 21-30 in the opening period, they managed to get the much-needed scoring sock with the return of combo guard Jayson Castro after getting an extended rest this season.
The 5-foot-8 many-time national player fired 17 of his team-high 20 points off the bench, while making a living from the foul line as he tends to get fouled while going hard to the basket.
Sophomore Fil-Tongan Moala Tautuaa also finished the game with 20 points, getting most of his baskets from within close range.
De Ocampo added 15 points, 8 rebounds and 4 assists for TNT.
Rookie sensation Mac Belo carried the fight for the Elite as he finished the game with a near double-double effort of 21 points and 9 rebounds in a losing effort.
Pinto and big man Kyle Pascual added 14 points apiece. – Richard Dy
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