TNT watched with bated breath as Sean Anthony missed a potential game-tying basket at the buzzer, escaping with a thrilling 90-88 win over NLEX to arrange do-or-die match with Rain or Shine for a berth in the Smart Bro-PBA Philippine Cup semifinals.
With the Tropang Texters protecting a two-point lead with 2.2 seconds, Anthony got the ball off the in-bound and drove hard to the basket, before pulling off an off-balanced shot as time expired.
The Tropang Texters will now face the Elasto Painters in a knockout game for the right to face defending champion San Miguel in the best-of-seven semis.
The sudden-death between the two powerhouse teams is set Monday also at the Mall of Asia Arena.
“NLEX is really tough. They beat us in the first round and we barely squeaked past them,” said TNT coach Jong Uichico later.
Rookie Troy Rosario stepped up for the Tropang Texters with 20 points in tandem with veteran Danny Seigle, The two cobined for 18 of the team's 29 points in the fourth period when the team finally took control of the game
Jayson Castro’s three-pointer broke the final deadlock of the match, putting the Tropang Texters in front for good, 83-80.
But the Tropang Texters still left the door open for one final comeback by the Road Warriors after Castro muffed both his free throws with 35 seconds left.
Uichico said TNT can’t afford to play the same way against a veteran and playoff-toughened team such as the Elasto Painters.
“We gotta play better and defend better on the 28th (against Rain or Shine),” said the Tropang Texters mentor.
Asi Taulava led the seventh-seeded NLEX with 22 points and eight rebounds, while Anthony had a double-double of 17 and 13 rebounds.
TNT (90) - Rosario 20, Seigle 17, Reyes R. 12, Castro 10, Fonacier 10, Williams 9, Miranda 3, Tautuaa 3, Aban 2, Carey 2, Rosser 0, Reyes J. 0.
NLEX (88) - Taulava 22, Anthony 17, Villanueva J. 13, Lanete 9, Alas 7, Borboran 7, Khobuntin 7, Cardona 5, Enciso 1, Camson 0, Reyes 0, Villanueva E. 0.
Quarterscores: 11-21; 36-36; 61-67; 90-88.