TNT coach Nash Racela’s prediction may have been realized two games late but the timing still remained perfect as the Texters needed it most in their PBA Commissioner’s Cup semifinal series against Barangay Ginebra.
After Jayson Castro was held to just four points--his lowest output in six years--in the Texters’ 100-94 win in Game One, Racela made a bold forecast that the Texters superstar would make up for it in a huge way the next game.
Games Two and Three came, yet Castro was still far from his top offensive form, averaging just 7.7 points on 10.7 attempts in the first three games of the series.
But Castro finally regained his vintage form on Saturday as he poured in 38 points on 13-of-21 shooting in the 122-109 win in Game Four that eliminated the Gin Kings and booked for the Texters a finals ticket opposite San Miguel Beer.
“I was telling you after Game One, you expect Jayson to explode. We didn’t get that in Games 2 and 3. But today, he did,” Racela said.
“And before the game we told him that he has to be aggressive for us to at least have a chance against Ginebra,” he added.
Castro heeded his young coach’s call and wasted little time as he scattered 13 points in the first quarter, before leading the Texters’ final push by having a hand in all but two of their last 11 points of the game.
“For three games, sobrang tight ng defense nila, Defensively, meron sila sa’kin,” Castro admitted. “So going into Game Four, parang yung mindset ko is to be aggressive na lang.”
“Alam kong nagsa-struggle ako sa shot ko, so parang sinabi ko sa sarili ko, this is a do-or-die game, kapag umabot pa ng Game Five, parang lalo kaming mada-down, so we need to win,” he added. “Yun nga, yung mga wide open shots ko, na dati ko namang tinitira, kailangan ko lang itira with confidence."
Still, the Gilas Pilipinas star didn’t forget to involve his teammates as he dished out 11 assists and missed out on a triple-double by just three rebounds, completing his outstanding showing with two steals in 35 minutes as a starter.
“At the same time, kapag tina-trap nila ako, or yung mga may help, that’s the time na hanapin ko yung mga teammtes ko,” Castro said. “Kasi yung first three games ko parang mas hinahanap ko yung teammate ko compared sa shot (ko).”
“(But) this game, kailangan kong maging aggressive and maging example din for yung young guys,” he added. “Kasi I’m one of the veterans, at the same time kailangan kong dumepensa, humustle.”
And having that impact apart from scoring is what makes Castro special, lauded Racela.
“When Jayson is limited to single digits, people talk about him not being effective, but that’s just Jayson. He finds ways to contribute,” Racela said. “Tsaka I was telling somebody, earlier, if you see Jayson’s number in terms of points go down, it just means his assists number will go up, his rebounds will go up. And that just speaks of Jayson. That’s how well he is.”
Castro, though, has to stay consistent against a powerhouse SMB side, although he insisted it’s not a one-man show.
“Hindi naman kami parang Jayson Castro versus Chris Ross,” Castro said. “Yung mentality namin sa TNT is more on ‘team’ talaga eh. Yun nga yung laging inaano ni coach Nash—once we play as a team, maraming nangyayari. Yung mga pang ninth, tenth, eleventh guy namin kayang magcontribute naman eh.”
“Siguro to beat San Miguel yun yung kailangan namin magmula kay Ranidel (de Ocampo) hanggang sa 14th guy namin—everytime na pumapasok sila, maka-contribute,” he added. “Kasi alam naman natin, San Miguel is a tough team. Even ngayon, yung bench nila, yung starting five nila.”