TNT 101 – SMB 94
Kelly Williams was almost knocked out of basketball before. Back in 2009, the former PBA MVP was diagnosed with a rare blood disease that forced him to step away from basketball indefinitely. He even contemplated retiring completely early in 2013. But Williams loved the game too much and was too stubborn to let a complicated, difficult to pronounce blood disease take basketball away from him.
So, he fought back, got healthy and was able to rejoin TNT during the 2013-2014 PBA season. He wasn’t back to his prime self. He wasn’t ever going to be back to the high-flying, slam-dunking, trophy-bagging Kelly Williams. But all things considered, just being able to suit up was a victory in itself. He earned spot minutes on a loaded Ka-Tropa team playing behind top picks and imports.
Four years ago, he was lucky to just be on the court. This conference, Williams is playing an even bigger role in the playoff run of the KaTropa. This conference he’s been delivering knockout blows in crucial moments of big TNT playoff wins.
It started in game two of their quarterfinals series against the GlobalPort Batang Pier. He corralled an offensive rebound in the dying seconds and converted a put-back that gave TNT a three-point lead and made the Batang Pier’s final shot even tougher.
He’s been doing more of the same in their semis match-up against the San Miguel Beermen.
In game three, Williams was open by the free-throw line as Pogoy was driving into the lane. He received the shovel pass from the rookie and drove hard to the basket to hit a tough lay-up with 1:24 left in the game. That shot stopped a San Miguel run and gave his team two-possession lead, 94-90.
His most recent heroics happened in their game five win over the Beermen. Williams was lurking by the baseline with a little over a minute left in the game. Ryan Reyes got into the paint and sucked up the defense. He then found Williams who got the ball, went hard to the hoop and sank a reverse lay-up to bring the lead back up to 12, 97-85.
In five games this semifinals series, Williams is averaging 14.4 points. He was one of the top scorers in the Ka-Tropa’s game five win with 18 markers, matching Jayson Castro and Ranidel De Ocampo’s output. Williams also grabbed seven rebounds and stole the ball thrice.
Beyond the stats, Williams has been a huge revelation for his team because of how active he plays on both ends of the floor. He’s transformed into a Tyson Chandler-type player for TNT. He may be a step slower but he’s using veteran guile and intense aggressiveness to make plays.
Williams can be involved in pick-and-roll plays because he always rolls to the basket hard, sucking in the defense and opening up midrange opportunities for his guards. If he’s not directly involved in the play, he always makes sure to be one step away for the dump-off pass or to challenge for an offensive rebound.
It’s on defense where he really excels. Williams is an active defender constantly pushing June Mar Fajardo out of position. He can front Fajardo and prevent the entry pass with his leaping ability. If he’s behind the big man, he uses his long limbs to bother Fajardo and buy enough time for the speedy help defense to get into the play. Williams has done an admirable job against Fajardo. He teamed up with the rest of the TNT defenders to limit the big man to just 13 points in their game five win.
The KaTropa is one game away from getting back to the Philippine Cup Finals. The last time they were there, Williams was inactive due to his ailment. Now, he’s one of the most active guy on the court, making a difference in almost every play. Kelly Williams is one of biggest reasons why TNT is rising higher in the Philippine Cup playoffs.
Video c/o Sports 5 Youtube channel