By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
UNDEFEATED to date in the ongoing Philippine Basketball Association Governors’ Cup, the TNT KaTropa go for a third straight win in their league encounter today against the Phoenix Pulse Fuel Masters at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Set for 7 p.m., the KaTropa (2-0) look to keep their spot on the top of the standings of the season-ending PBA tournament with a win while capping the attempt of Phoenix Pulse to rise (1-2).
Leading the way for the KaTropa is former National Basketball Association campaigner KJ McDaniels, who has been rock solid with all-around numbers of 39 points, 17.5 rebounds, six assists, five blocks and 1.5 steals per game.
His stellar up to this point has helped TNT channel the dominant, beating opponents by an average winning margin of 20 points.
Also having it great early in the tournament is veteran guard Jayson Castro, who is averaging a near double-double of 16 points and 9.5 assists per contest.
The Gilas Pilipinas duo of Troy Rosario and Roger Pogoy has been good for 17 points apiece while Don Trollano is adding 14.5 points of his own.
The KaTropa are relishing the good start they are having but recognize that they have to stay on top on their game moving forward as they expect the competition to get even tougher.
“We just have to continue playing hard. We have to sustain this (good start) and take advantage of every opportunity we are given. The games would not be easy as the tournament progresses,” said TNT coach Bong Ravena following their most recent win, a 103-91 triumph over the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters on Sept. 28.
Out to stop the KaTropa are the Fuel Masters, who finally barged into the win column last time around after opening their Governors’ Cup campaign with back-to-back losses.
The breakthrough win of Phoenix Pulse came at the expense of the Barangay Ginebra San Miguel Kings, 103-101, on Sept. 28 in a game that saw it avert a monumental meltdown in the end.
Held a 23-point lead at one point of the match, the Fuel Masters were threatened by a spirited rally back by the Kings but were bailed out by the crucial basket of Matthew Wright with five seconds to go to move on and preserve the win.
Import Eugene Phelps finished with a triple-double of 27 points, 23 rebounds and 11 assists for Phoenix Pulse with Mr. Wright top-scoring with 28 points.
Justin Chua had 17 points while RJ Jazul added 10.
Meanwhile, playing in the curtain-raiser at 4:30 p.m. are the Northport Batang Pier (1-1) and Columbian Dyip (1-1), who are both coming off losses in their previous outings.