Mikey Williams (middle) connected on 10 of 20 attempts from the flfloor to lead TNT past Phoenix. —PBA IMAGES

Mikey Williams (middle) connected on 10 of 20 attempts from the flfloor to lead TNT past Phoenix. —PBA IMAGES

Mikey Williams’ second game since returning to the TNT fold was a far better one, proving that he needed just a few outings to get his legs back—and that contract negotiations notwithstanding, he’s all in for his team’s title defense.

The spitfire guard scored 11 of his 27 points in the fourth quarter—including seven straight during a key breakaway—as TNT displayed the spunk of a champion Sunday night to whip Phoenix Super LPG, 87-72, and extend its winning ways in the PBA Philippine Cup at Ynares Center.

“The key with Mikey that a lot of people don’t know is that he’s very coachable … and coachability is the mark of a true professional,” TNT coach Chot Reyes said of his ward, who missed five games for the Tropang Giga due to long-drawn contract negotiations that are still ongoing.

“I think the critical part was we had to keep our player-coach relationship strong and differentiate that from the player-manager relationship. So I think that was a big step with what you’re seeing now, that no matter [how] protracted negotiations [are], the communication as player and coach remains very direct, very open,” he added.

Williams also finished with six boards, seven assists, and a pair of steals in only his second game back for the Tropang Giga. He keyed a 15-2 breakaway in the final frame as the Tropang Giga raced to a 77-63 lead en route to their fifth win in seven outings.

“We just gave ourselves enough opportunities to get shots up, and you know Mikey, if you give him a lot of opportunities, he’s going to make those shots,” Reyes said.

Williams finished with 15 points, three rebounds and six assists in his first game back, an 89-85 victory over Rain or Shine. But he shot just five of 20 (25 percent) from the floor then. This time, he made half his 20 attempts.

Phoenix battled TNT tooth and nail for three quarters, even tying the game late in the third at 58. But the Tropang Giga slowly pulled away before dropping the Fuel Masters to their fourth loss in six matches.

“We knew [the Fuel Masters] would come out very, very strong after their last game. We just had to be able to weather that initial surge,” Reyes said.

Also a factor in Phoenix’s strong start, according to Williams, was the fact that the Fuel Masters were playing against the defending champs.

“We just gotta know that every team is gonna give us their best” Williams said. “We just got to continue to prepare, continue to work, just continue to work on things that coaches and everybody else is instilling on us to get back-to-back [titles].

“We know it’s not going to be easy, we know day in day out it’s gonna be a tough task. We just want to put everything together and play a full 48, [minutes of basketball]” he added.

Williams is confident that contract talks will finally end well for both sides, but in the meantime, none of the negotiations is affecting the squad.

“Despite the contract negotiations ongoing, we’ve been able to compartmentalize,” said Reyes.

Roger Pogoy added 20 for TNT, while Glenn Khobuntin added nine more that went with 10 rebounds.

Phoenix got the goods from Sean Anthony and Tyler Tio who both had 13 points. Javee Mocon added 12 and RJ Jazul 11. But with franchise cornerstone Matthew Wright scoring only three points, the Fuel Masters eventually failed to keep up with the Tropang Giga. INQ


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