TNT rookie RR Pogoy had a career game while import Joshua Smith improvised off a broken set play to hit the game-winner in the end as the KaTropa escaped the San Miguel Beermen, 104-102, to take a 1-0 lead in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup Finals on Wednesday at the SMART-Araneta Coliseum.
Pogoy scored a career-best 27 points, 13 of those coming in a crucial fourth quarter run for TNT. Many of his points came from the outside as he shot 5-for-9 (55-percent) from beyond the arc in a terrific performance for the rookie.
Smith, who has been dealing with foot injury since the semifinals, had another heroic showing for the KaTropa as he tallied 21 points and nine rebounds.
He also made the biggest play of the game, serving as a second-option after star point guard Jayson Castro was covered tightly on the inbound pass on TNT’s final possession. Smith received the ball instead and dived down the lane before finishing with a jump-hook that won the game.
Castro finished one rebound short of a triple-double, recording 14 points, nine rebounds and 10 assists. RR Garcia also provided some additional firepower, scoring 13 points off the TNT bench.
SMB was led by import Charles Rhodes, who scored 21 points in a red-hot first quarter. He finished with 31 points and 13 rebounds for the Beermen.
Game 2 of the best-of-seven series is set for Friday, 7 p.m., also at the SMART-Araneta Coliseum.
San Miguel went off to a strong start, taking the first quarter, 31-24, behind Rhodes’ explosive effort to open the game.
But TNT erased the SMB lead in the second quarter with a big 12-0 run that featured the scoring of Smith and some nice playmaking from Castro.
The KaTropa entered the half with a 56-51 lead.
TNT seemed poised to run away with the game early in the fourth period as Pogoy knocked down three three-pointers and a putback. His two free throws at the 6:33 mark gave the KaTropa a 95-85 advantage.
But SMB remained unfazed and responded with a 13-3 run, thanks mostly to Rhodes and Alex Cabagnot, who tied the game at 98-all.
Both Smith and Rhodes came away with splits on their respective teams’ offensives before Castro drilled in a clutch three-pointer that made it 102-99 with 44 seconds remaining.
The Beermen, though, got another free throw from Rhodes and two more from Chris Ross as the game was knotted up again, 102-all, with 7.6 seconds left to play.
TNT coach Nash Racela drew up a play to get the ball to Castro for the last shot but that broke down on the inbound pass with Ross cutting off the passing lane to Castro.
Smith was perfectly positioned to receive the ball, though, and the TNT import went to work, knocking down the dagger. SMB had a chance for a desperation heave in the end but it would not fall for them.