TNT KaTropa leaned on their hulking import Joshua Smith to topple Barangay Ginebra San Miguel, 100-94, and draw first blood in their Oppo PBA Commissioner’s Cup best-of-five semifinals series on Sunday night at Mall of Asia Arena.
The burly Smith scored 35 points and 13 rebounds as he wreaked havoc in the paint and overpowered the hapless Ginebra big men who came his way.
RR Pogoy also buried 17 points, 10 of which came in the first quarter that helped TNT get an early head start.
TNT superstar guard Jayson Castro only finished with four points, but he delivered his only field goal when his team needed it the most as he sank a go-ahead three-pointer with 14 seconds left to ice KaTropa’s 1-0 lead.
Ginebra just found no answer to Smith’s dominance down low as TNT led for the entire game.
But the Gin Kings were able to stay within striking distance after a 12-0 run sparked by their bench players trimmed their 15-point deficit into just three, 64-61, with three minutes left in the third quarter.
Smith however responded with six straight points to keep TNT afloat.
Ginebra however wouldn’t go away, keeping the game close in the dying minutes. Justin Brownlee made a short jumper that put Ginebra to within three points, 97-94, with just 33 seconds left.
But Castro showed nerves of steel and fired a dagger triple on the other end.
Brownlee led Ginebra with 24 points and 14 boards in the losing effort.