Veteran sports anchor and ESPN5.com writer Charlie Cuna gives his two cents on the first several playdates of the 2018 Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Governors' Cup.
Game of the week
The tournament began on August 17, so we have 10 games so far played to choose from. Frankly, a lot of the games were lopsided as teams scrambled to get their bearings or adjust to their imports. TNT has already played four games, NLEX three, Meralco, Phoenix and Alaska two each, as San Miguel and Ginebra, last conference's finalists, were given a short respite from their championship battle, and Rain or Shine was granted several byes since its core is representing the country at the Asian Games.
TNT figured in an overtime matchup versus Blackwater on Friday, but that isn't even the Game of the Week. The KaTropa though are still part of this honor, as they pulled out a two-point squeaker, 92-90, against Meralco on August 19 in Antipolo. Despite not having an import for the match (Mike Glover had been dismissed after a lackluster first game against NLEX), TNT's local crew stepped up, especially Terrence Romeo, who had 23 points, eight rebounds, and 10 assists, and a big three-pointer late in the game, to seal the deal.
Unfortunately for TNT, that was their only win for the week, as the team went 1-3 and is groping for form and chemistry.
Top performance of the week by a local
Romeo's above-mentioned near triple-double is surely near the top of the list, but on Sunday, Alaska guard Simon Enciso was scorching hot, scoring 30 points on nine of 12 three-pointers (75%) and 10 of 13 overall (76%) in his team's dismantling of TNT. He also hit his lone free throw off a technical foul called on TNT coach Nash Racela. While the rest of his statline was blank, a shooting performance such as his does not come along too often. He hit accurately, frequently, and early, to set the tone for his squad, and he did not stop hitting even in the second half. Note that Enciso sat out the entire fourth quarter as Coach Alex Compton chose to rest him and most of his other starters since the game was practically decided except for the final score.
Allein Maliksi's 28-point, nine-rebound output in Blackwater's OT victory versus TNT also deserves honorable mention here.
Top performance of the week by an import
They call him "El Destructor" and he was certainly a destructive force against the Columbian Dyip on August 22, roaring for a monster game of 50 points (20-32 fgs, 62%), seventeen rebounds (nine offensive), and eight blocked shots. With some imports either terrible or mediocre, Eugene Phelps of Phoenix not only showed why he has become his team's resident import, but that all other imports must really be ready to face him in this "small import" conference where he can dominate with his immense strength and unrelenting effort. Despite his poor free-throw shooting (just 10-22, 45%, with a new, one-handed form), Phoenix has a rock to rely on and he will be trouble for the rest of the league if the Fuel Masters' local crew can ably support him.
Disappointing performance of the week
It was tough for TNT, having four games in the first week of action. RR Pogoy had a solid game in the team's sole win against Meralco (19 points, five rebounds), but in the other three games, he shot poorly and was very inconsistent and, at times, almost uninvolved. His +/- rating in all three losses was horrible. It wasn't just him. Overall, TNT has proven to be a shadow of its usual self so far, but when you are considered one of the most versatile scorers in the league and a big part of your team's success, it's easy to notice when the performance is way below par. Surely, RR will bounce back as the conference continues. His team is in a hole and, with the shortened format for the conference, needs to recover quickly.
Must-see for this week
On Wednesday, Calvin Abueva and his Phoenix Fuel Masters will face the Alaska Aces, his former team where "The Beast" established himself as one of the league's best.
Ginebra and Justin Brownlee make their debut on Friday versus the Dyip, with a second game on Sunday against Alaska. That is a must-watch as well.
SMB debuts on Saturday against NLEX.