Right in the opening bell, TNT import Joshua Smith clearly showed why he’s the biggest stumbling block to Ginebra’s Finals hopes — literally.
Smith, using all his massive 330-pound frame to his advantage, waylaid all the defensive schemes thrown at him as he made a big noise in TNT’s Game 1 victory over the Gin Kings, 100-94, on Sunday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Coming off a do-or-die overtime battle with Meralco two days ago, the 6-foot-9 burly American center was not at all fatigued when he put up a personal PBA-high of 35 points, to go along with 13 rebounds (11 offensive) and 4 assists.
The top-seed Ginebra simply did not have an answer to Smith, who just needed the whole second half to wreck havoc. Even a double or triple team combination of either Japeth Aguilar, Joe Devance, Dave Marcelo and import Justin Brownlee couldn’t contain him.
“It was a tough game, a hard game,” said the Seattle, Washington native. “They’re a good team and they have the crowd in there. I’m just glad we pulled it out.”
Smith even flaunted his quickness despite his massive size when he spinned around Japeth Aguilar for an easy monster dunk early in the third quarter.
Aguilar, on his part, admitted he was challenged to the limit handling him downlow.
“Not only he’s heavy, but he’s wide talaga, so ‘yun talaga ang advantage nila sa rebound,” said Aguilar. “Kahit na madikit ka na sa kanya, dahil wide ‘yung body niya, hindi mo ma-challenge na maabot ‘yung bola.
“Mabigat, mabigat talaga. ‘Yung chance mo lang talaga is full deny talaga,” he stressed.
Ginebra versatile forward Joe Devance actually thought they had Smith figured out in the first half after holding him down to just 6 points, but they were all caught off guard when the latter exploited his lighter foes.
“I think he just found his rhythm and figured how we have been guarding him,” he said. “Just with the whole TNT, there’s really no room for mistakes, let alone with the 6-10 (6-9), 400-pound import, but we’ll figure out. We will see what we can do, and get better at it.”
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