TNT KaTropa survived Rain or Shine’s fiery comeback led by the ageless James Yap to escape with a pulsating 105-102 win and in the Oppo PBA Commissioner’s Cup Sunday at Ynares Center in Antipolo.
The 35-year-old Yap finished with 23 points and had several chances to snatch the win for Rain or Shine. But his free throw misses in the end-game dealt a huge blow to the Elasto Painters’ rally from 16 points down.
Joshua Smith 23 points and 12 boards while Ranidel De Ocampo came up with 21 points and six boards including two pressure-packed free throws to seal the win for KaTropa.
With the victory, TNT (8-3) still has a chance to finish in the top two. But it would need Star (8-2), Ginebra (7-2), San Miguel (7-2) and Meralco (7-3) to lose games.
The loss meanwhile put Rain or Shine (5-6) in danger of falling to seventh or eighth seed which face a twice-to-win disadvantage in the quarterfinals.
TNT’s 16-point first half lead melted down after Jeff Chan buried a booming triple to give Rain or Shine a 98-97 lead with 2:05 left.
Smith then hit back-to-back layups but an and-one by Yap tied the game at 101-all. The former MVP had a chance to regain the lead for Rain or Shine, but he uncharacteristically missed two freebies with 51 seconds left.
RR Pogoy sank a huge jumper to hand TNT a 103-101 lead with 26 seconds remaining. Yap, after his two signature one-handers came up short, was sent to the line again with five ticks left.
But Yap only made one out of two free throws. De Ocampo buried two free throws on the other end, then TNT’s tight defense prevented Rain or Shine from getting a good look in the last play of the game.
Chan added 18 points for Rain or Shine which didn’t have an import for most of the second half as Duke Crews was ejected in the third quarter for collecting two technical fouls.