Jones keeps emotion in check

Terrence Jones tries to block Beermen import Chris McCullough in Game 4 of the PBA finals series Sunday night. (PBA)

Terrence Jones of TNT KaTropa had endured a lot of thrash talks, unnecessary contacts and mind games all throughout the first four games of their Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Commissioner’s Cup best-of-seven finals series against San Miguel Beer.

Still, his goal remains the same: Win the title.

Jones, the newly crowned Best Import awardee, maintained that no amount of distraction could shove him away from his ultimate goal of leading the KaTropa to their first title in four years.

In Game 4, the former Kentucky Wildcat had to endure all kinds of extra contacts that led to their 101-106 setback that allowed the Beermen to gain the equalizer and turn it into a virtual best-of-three affair.

He nearly lost his cool when Arwind Santos hacked him midway through the fourth canto, prompting the prolific former Kentucky star to scream in front of the veteran forward.

But instead of allowing the tense moment to escalate into a full-blown brawl, Jones simply smiled as he was making his way to the charity stripe.

Santos, who is no stranger to drawing the ire of the opposing import, just brushed off the incident, saying that Jones just let him smell his breath.

“He shouted at me to let me smell his breath,” Santos said. “It smells like American. It smells like burger. I’m already used to it. That’s the way it goes whenever things heat up. It’s all part of the game. But the problem is he blows stronger than me.”

Santos admitted that he was trying to play mind games with the former member of the Houston Rockets.

“I was trying to stare at him straight into his eyes. He wasn’t responding,” said Santos, a 13-year veteran.

“The mere fact that he wasn’t responding means he knows what he’s doing. We take advantage of situations like this. We want to know who will be the first to lose his cool.”

After the altercation with Santos, it was the Beermen’s bench that took its turn in trying to get under Jones’ skin.

With only 16.4 seconds left and the game had already been decided, Nabong and Christian Standhardinger bumped into Jones as the American was making his way into the bench. Jones responded by shoving Standhardinger first before getting Nabong out of the way.

“I didn’t do anything. I was just trying to high five my players for a good job and I guess he didn’t like the fact that they lost this game so he pushed me. That’s it. No words spoken. Nothing,” said Nabong, who embraced the role as the Beermen’s enforcer.

“It was fine. It was just a little baby push. It was nothing. That was a little soft, flop push like he always does. I thought he’s an NBA player?”

Nabong’s statement came after teammate Chris Ross took a swipe at Jones, calling him “mentally a baby” during a tension-filled Game 3, which saw Jones planting a headbutt on the scrappy Filipino-American playmaker.

Jones was fined P20,000, prompting him to keep his emotions in check in Game 4, where he erupted for 32 points, 16 assists and six rebounds.

But Jones said he wouldn’t fall into the Beermen’s trap let things to get out of hand.

“I don’t really have too much to say about it. I’m only here to win a championship so the only mind game they can play is winning four games before I do. And I don’t think that is going to happen,” said Jones, who played with the likes of Patrick Beverly, Zaza Pachulia, Draymond Green and other aggressive players all throughout his four-year stint with the Rockets.

“We have really worked hard every game to put ourselves in this position and have that number one seed; build chemistry and believe in one another from day one. It’s just a great opportunity for us on the recent achievement and we still got one more to go.”

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p: wjg