MANILA, Philippines—TNT consultant Mark Dickel refused to blame the officiating after the KaTropa succumbed to San Miguel Beer in double overtime, 127-125, in Game 2 of the 2019 PBA Commissioner's Cup finals on Wednesday.
The KaTropa rallied from a 17-point deficit in the first half, and were on the verge of victory in the first overtime after taking a 114-111 lead off a 3-pointer by Troy Rosario.
A technical foul on Terrence Jones led to his ejection and allowed Chris McCullough to make it a 2-point game, 114-112, at the line. Still, TNT had a chance to extend the lead when Brian Heruela trooped to the free-throw line, only to flub both charities.
The KaTropa got a stop when they forced McCullough into an awkward layup, and the Beermen had to give up a foul on Rosario. In a shocker, Rosario missed both of his free throws, after waxing hot from behind the arc in the fourth quarter. The second miss was especially costly, as Chris Ross secured the rebound in traffic and passed ahead to Alex Cabagnot, who tied the game with a lay-up that beat the buzzer.
"When you win, you don't worry about the officiating," said Dickel, after the Beermen tied the best-of-7 Finals series at 1-1. "It's only when you lose that that’s an issue. But I mean, if you got eyes, you’d see what’s going on."
"We just gotta make free throws at the end of the game," he stressed. "It doesn't matter what the refs do. We'd still win the game."
TNT went 13-of-24 from the free-throw line, but it was the timing of its misses that was especially painful. It wasn't only the four missed free throws in the final 21 seconds of the first overtime: Jayson Castro also split his charities with 1:33 left in the second extra period, which could have given the KaTropa the lead.
Dickel won't deny that he had some questions about the officiating. He was not convinced about the technical foul called on Jones that caused him to be ejected from the game late in the first overtime, for instance.
"It's almost very interesting, that call," he said.
But he also made it clear that worrying about the officiating was ultimately useless, and moreover, a disservice to San Miguel.
"Every time you bring that (officiating) up, you lessen the fact that San Miguel played a good game," he pointed out.
"Look," he also said. "Ultimately, we'd still control the destiny if we would have made our free throws in the end."
Dickel does take some solace in how TNT rallied from a 17-point deficit in the first half, and the team's much improved defense in the second half after allowing the Beermen to make nearly 65% of their 3-point attempts in the first two quarters.
The most crucial thing for TNT now, Dickel said, is to move on and focus on Game 3.
"We gotta come out on Friday, put it behind us, and get ready to play another good game," he said.
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