NEAR the end of the third quarter, TNT’s biggest fear nearly came true when Joshua Smith hobbled out of the court and went straight to the dugout while favoring his right foot.
Good thing for the KaTropa, their import’s heart is tantamount to his size.
Smith not only came back at the start of the fourth quarter, he won the game altogether for the Ka-Tropa by draining the soft hook shot to clinch a 104-102 victory over San Miguel in Game One of the PBA Commissioner’s Cup finals on Wednesday night.
Smith finished with 21 points and nine rebounds in just 26 minutes off the bench for the Ka-Tropa, but none came bigger than his jump hook with a little over a second left in the game to seal the victory for his squad.
The play wasn’t even designed for him. But when Chris Ross succeeded in denying Jayson Castro, the 330-lb. man mountain knew he had to take matters into his own hands - injured or not.
“It was for Jayson. He wasn’t open. I caught the ball, I was looking for somebody to pass it to,” Smith admitted.
“Once there was nobody else I just decided to take it myself. Like I said, my foot’s hurting but it feels better when you win. So that’s all really that matters,” he added.
With replacement import Mike Myers already waiting to take over, it would have been a wise decision for Smith to simply rest and avoid aggravating his injury.
But there’s just no quit in him, and if it means taking it one quarter at a time, it’s a risk that he’s willing to take.
“I just kept telling myself 12 minutes, 12 minutes, 12 minutes,” Smith said.
“As much as it is easy for me to pack up my stuff and leave, I wanna keep playing. I came here with one goal and I’m so close so I gotta take it day by day,” he added.
While this victory is sweet, Smith expects every game to be a grind, especially facing a San Miguel squad that went into this series the heavy favorite.
“They’re a good team. It came down to the last shot. This first game is indicative of the whole series. It’s going to be tough games. It’s gonna be whoever team that crawls it out, grinds it out,” he continued.
He’s just going to sleep a little more sounder tonight now that they have a game advantage over the Beermen.
“I’m glad we’re the first team to get the first win so we’re three steps closer.”