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    COLUMN: Chot expects Abueva to be a 'beast of a problem' for TnT

    Oct 19, 2021
    Calvin Abueva and the Hotshots are a win away from the 2021 PBA Philippine Cup Finals.
    Calvin Abueva is four wins away from his first PBA championship since his Alaska days.
    PHOTO: PBA Images
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    CHICAGO - When he gazes at Magnolia in tomorrow's Game One of the PBA Finals, two things worry Tropang Giga head coach Chot Reyes the most.

    "Their press and their hunger," he told me via text message on a hectic Tuesday where he emerged from a workshop, went to a PBA presscon, and then to a couple of meetings.

    Obviously, he wasn't referring to how well-ironed the Hotshots' jerseys are or that they had skipped a few meals in Bacolor, Pampanga.

    Coach Chot was talking about how they stalk the ball carriers and how Magnolia is desperate to end a three-year title drought.

    Like a psychiatrist placating a patient slumped on a leather couch, I pried some more potential concerns that may be tapping at Chot's consciousness.

    He obliged.

    "A beast of a problem. We will have to always have a body on him," he said of Calvin Abueva, the roiling, withering tempest of emotions that wears No.13, an often unlucky digit for those who cross the path of Magnolia's mercurial wingman.

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    Chot Reyes, TNT, bench

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    Without suggesting anything sinister or throwing rehashed conspiracy theories, I asked Reyes if those guys and gals in zebra stripes make him lose sleep over officiating.

    "Always," he whistled back at me.

    But if there's something he isn't worried about, it's Mikey Williams, his highly-touted but often misfiring rookie.

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    'Shooters shoot'

    I brought up the fact that Mikey Williams averaged only a meek 13.8 points in the semis, couldn't shoot the ball to save PLDT in the San Miguel series, and shot just 36 of 111 from the field (32.4 percent) and only 18 of 53 from 3 (33.9 percent).

    Chot stood by his man.

    "We want him to shoot more. Shooters shoot."

    In a separate interview, gunner Roger Pogoy told me he has been given the same license to shoot, especially after averaging 17.5 points versus the Beermen and making 37 of 112 shots (41.9 percent) including 15 of 3 from 3 (37.5 percent).

    Will Magnolia's pressing attack disconnect TNT?

    Can the Tropang Giga mitigate the mayhem Abueva will inflict?

    I guess we'll find out tomorrow.

    chito victolero magnolia

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    LOCKDOWN DEFENSE. As for Magnolia, here are the marching orders in the effort to silence TNT's shooters and extend the squad's six-year search for a championship.

    "We need to strengthen our individual defense to incorporate to our team defense." coach Chito Victolero said.

    "What worries you the most about TNT?" I pressed.

    "I think we got it covered for now. We know how deep and talented they are but we are prepared for that. Just like them, we will adjust what may be needed as the series progresses."

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      COACHES' CORNER. While waffling which one to pick between two teams that I equally like, one for its vibrant offense and the other for its tenacious defense, I decided to hear the opinions of two current PBA coaches.

      And here's what I heard from Meralco's Norman Black.

      "TNT has been the front-runner and most consistent team the entire conference. My semis experience with Magnolia tells me that it will be a dogfight and certainly the Hotshots can spring an upset. Defense and rebounding will be the theme of the series."

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      "Both of the teams are very aggressive so how the refs call the games and how much physicality they will allow will also be a big factor," Black added.

      Blackwater's Ariel Vanguardia likes the Hotshots a lot.

      "They have plenty of guards to stop Mikey Williams. Abueva is focused on winning a chip. And their team defense has been consistent all conference."

      All of that, Vanguardia believes, will add up to a 4-2 series win.

      I have no horse in this race but I'll be streaming it and pulling for a tight contest with flourishing finishes. Blowouts make me check out real quick.

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      Calvin Abueva is four wins away from his first PBA championship since his Alaska days.
      PHOTO: PBA Images
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