Joshua Smith threw his weight around and TNT held off top seed Barangay Ginebra, 100-94, to take Game 1 of the 2017 PBA Commissioner’s Cup semifinals Sunday night at Mall of Asia Arena.
The 6-foot-8, 300-pound Smith scored 29 of his 35 points in the second half including an 18-point third quarter as the KaTropa weathered the Gin Kings’ fightback.
He owned the shaded area going 16-of-22 from the field while also collecting 13 rebounds and four assists in just a little over 29 minutes off the bench.
“Well again, just like the last game, if you give him minutes, he will give you the numbers,” TNT head coach Nash Racela said.
“I think today he had 35, rebounds maybe not that much, but because of Ginebra’s defense, they really concentrated on neutralizing Joshua and almost like having 2 or 3 guys on him every single time,” Racella added.
But despite the Kings’ defensive game plan of crowding Smith with two or three defenders, the hefty import found ways to deliver for the KaTropa as if there was little resistance to hurdle.
Roger Pogoy also came up big for TNT with 17 points on 3-of-5 shooting from the three-point area while Jayson Castro, who was struggling all-game long offensively, hit the game-clinching 3-pointer with 12.2 seconds left.
“I actually didn’t want him (Castro) to shoot the last shot but Jayson will be Jayson,” said Racela. “He was really born for those moments.”
Castro was 0-of-9 from the field before hitting that dagger of a triple over Sol Mercado.
The Kings never led but pulled within one possession thrice inside the final two minutes but each time, the KaTropa had answer with Pogoy, Smith and Castro hitting timely baskets.
Justin Brownlee led Ginebra with 24 points, 14 rebounds and six assists. The Gin Kings look to even the series on Tuesday.