JOSHUA Smith came prepared for what Barangay Ginebra had to offer against him and scored a PBA career-high in TnT Katropa’s 100-94 win in Game 1 of the Commissioner’s Cup semifinals at the Mall of Asia Arena on Sunday night.
The hulking import exploded for 29 points in the second half as he repeatedly found a way to pounce on the double- and, sometimes, triple-teams thrown at him by the Kings.
The 330-lb. Smith, a former UCLA and Georgetown stalwart, finished with 35 points to reset his previous best of 32 markers he registered during the Texters’ 104-96 overtime win over the Meralco Bolts in the deciding game of their quarterfinals series last Friday.
Smith, 25, also added 13 rebounds – 11 on the offensive end – and proved to be a thorn in the side of the Gin Kings in Game 1 of the best-of-five series.
“I feel like anytime they’ll single or double coverage, I see a conscious effort for myself to score. But it’s all about making the right basketball plays,” said Smith, who has so far won five of his first six games with the franchise since taking over the job from Dontay Green.
Smith admitted holding his punches in the first half after scoring just six points coming off the bench before exploding in the final two quarters when he practically carried the fourth-seeded Texters on his broad shoulders.
He said it was really a matter of keeping patient and staying out of early foul trouble. The usually foul-plagued Smith finished the game with only three personal fouls.
“I was holding myself back (because) one thing is with the refs,” he said. “I just got to focus and I got to play my game. I got to know going out there that they’re not gonna hold me, and that I’m not gonna hold myself, then I’m playing good.”
Smith’s good play had the Texters jumping to a 1-0 lead in the series, with Game Two set to be played on Tuesday also at the MoA Arena.
The TnT import expects the next game to be even tougher.
“I’m just glad we won. It’s a tough game, a hard game. They’re a good team, they have the crowd there, they have all the energy, but I’m just glad we pulled this one out,” he said.