FORMER Smart Gilas teammate Mark Barroca is bringing the best out of Chris Tiu.
Tiu admitted the pesky San Mig point guard has challenged him to improve his game in their ongoing PLDT myDSL-PBA Philippine Cup championship series.
After struggling to get his game going in the first four games of the Finals, the 5-foot-11 Tiu came up with his best performance in a long while, scoring nine points, grabbing three rebounds, issuing two assists, and adding a steal, while holding his own defensively against Barroca.
“I think the games from the semis against Petron and through the first few games ng series na ito, I’ve been struggling offensively. But I tried to contribute in any way, which in this case, is trabaho ko depensahan si Mark,” said Tiu shortly after helping Rain or Shine score an 81-74 win in Sunday’s Game Five to cut San Mig’s series lead at 3-2.
Tiu said he has high respect for the San Mig playmaker, his former teammate for three years with the original Gilas team eho he described as a “tireless workhorse."
“Mark’s really improved over the years especially pagdating niya dito sa San Mig. He really stepped up his game,” said the 28-year-old former Ateneo star.
“Si Mark 'yung player na kahit araw-araw maglaro, di napapagod iyan eh. Parang kabayo.”
With such a tough defensive assignment in the championship series, the Rain or Shine second-year guard said he had to make extra work in practice to refine his shooting, while making sure he makes life miserable for Barroca.
“Tiyaga-tiyaga na lang para 'yung ibang scorers namin di mapagod sa kanya (Barroca). Mark has developed new skills and new moves,” said Tiu, who is also a celebrity endorser, TV host and businessman.
“He’s relentless. Atake ng atake saka siya din nagde-depensa. I have so much respect for the guy because he has worked his way to where he is now.”
The Elasto Painters will try to forge a winner-take-all Game Seven with another win on Wednesday.