When the TNT KaTropa announced that they had signed former Houston Rocket Terrence Jones as their import for the 2019 PBA Commissioner's Cup, the excitement among local fans was palpable. And Jones, who played for the Rockets and the New Orleans Pelicans over six NBA seasons, did not disappoint in his PBA debut, pouring in 41 points in 36 minutes to lead the KaTropa to a 102-87 win over the NLEX Road Warriors at the Ynares Center.
"I just want to give appreciation to my teammates," Jones said after being named best player of the game. "We did it together on the defensive end. Right now we're just trying to get better and take it one game at a time."
While Jones put up big numbers, defense was indeed the KaTropa's calling card in this game as they held the Road Warriors to a paltry 35 percent shooting from the field. TNT's defensive pressure also produced nine steals and forced NLEX into 21 turnovers.
"We wanted to find out how quickly he could adjust to us, but as you can see he has adjusted both on offense and on defense," said TNT coach Bong Ravena. "His offense will always be there. We have to make sure we also get it done on defense."
The KaTropa banked on a solid second quarter to overhaul an early deficit and pull away, outscoring the Road Warriors 34-16 to take a 52-39 lead into the halftime break.
TNT pushed its lead to 20 with 3:49 to go in the third period on a Jones floater before NLEX scored seven unanswered points to come to within 73-60. But Don Trollano hit three straight baskets to fuel an 8-0 counter-run to end the quarter and hand the KaTropa an 81-60 lead heading into the fourth.
It was cruise control from that point on, and Ravena even had the luxury of resting Jones for the last five minutes of the game with the outcome all but settled.
Curtis Washington, a late replacement for Tony Mitchell, led NLEX 18 points and 16 boards but shot just 5 of 15.
TNT 102 - Jones 41, A. Semerad 11, Williams 10, Castro 9, Trollano 8, Pogoy 6, Taha 4, Rosario 4, Heruela 4, D. Semerad 4, Reyes 1, Miranda 0, Casino 0.
NLEX 87 - Washington 18, Erram 14, Ighalo 14, Tiongson 10, Magat 9, Lao 7, Galanza 6, Fonacier 4, Soyud 2, Tallo 2, Paredes 1, Baguio 0, Paniamogan 0,
Quarterscores: 18-23, 52-39, 81-60, 102-87
The victory was doubly sweet for TNT head coach Bong Ravena, who was celebrating his 50th birthday.
Two-time NBA champion and three-time three-point shootout champion Craig Hodges, who is in town to help TNT with its shooting, watched from the sidelines. He may need to help them a little bit more as the KaTropa only made 6 out of their 28 three-point attempts.
Jones could have hit 50 if only he had made his free throws. He only converted 8 of 19. Ravena said that has been a problem even during their tune-up games but is confident his import will start hitting them.
TNT - May 25 vs Alaska at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
NLEX - May 25 vs NorthPort at the Smart Aranetra Coliseum.