A LEADER LIKE NO OTHER
Concrete proof is the way Alapag came up with two big games as a reliever in the week that was to boost the Tropang Texters’ quest for a coveted goal while earning for himself the Accel-PBA Press Corps Player of the Week honors for the period Nov. 19 to 25.
In TNT’s back-to-back wins over San Mig Coffee and Air21, Alapag averaged 18.5 points, 5.5 assists and 3.0 rebounds as the defending champion assured itself of at least a playoff berth for the No. 2 spot and its accompanying twice-to-beat advantage in the ensuing quarterfinals.
“The last two games he has given us a big lift with his offense. He has really shot the ball well, especially from long range,” said TNT coach Norman Black of the 34-year-old playmaker.
Alapag now usually plays behind Jayson Castro but that hardly mattered as he shot 11-for-14 from the field, including 7-for-9 from beyond the arc and a perfect 8-for-8 from the stripes in those two recent outings.
It is not just those numbers that impress Black more, however. “For me, it’s his leadership that has stood out. He and Jayson (Castro) have bought into the offensive system and they are making sure the team executes our plays well.”
Alapag has started in just three of the 11 games he has played so far. For the man who won the league MVP two seasons ago, he is simply doing what are expected of him.
“I’m feeling better with coach Norman’s system now,” said Alapag. “There was an adjustment period for the whole team, but I think we’re getting better with it. Coach always stresses to us the importance of trying to improve each game and we’re making a conscious effort to get it done.”
He showcased that by scoring a personal conference-high 19 points in just the first three quarters in pointing the way for TNT’s 92-63 demolition of archrival San Mig Coffee last Wednesday.
The 2003 Rookie of the Year followed that up with 18 points in a 100-94 repeat over Air21 last Sunday in a performance that featured eight points and two of his six assists in the decisive fourth period, giving the Texters full separation from the Express.
“Actually, Jimmy is just being Jimmy,” noted Black. “When he is healthy he is just a hard player to stop.”
That should prove to be a major concern for those wanting to derail TNT’s bid for a third straight title in the PBA’s most prestigious tournament.
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