Coach Tim Cone felt relieved that the worries he had going into Barangay Ginebra’s opening act in the PBA Governors’ Cup proved to be unfounded.
“I was kind of surprised, to be honest with you,” Cone told the press after the Gin Kings’ 102-90 win over the TNT Tropang Giga to draw first blood in the PBA Governors’ Cup Finals before a good Easter Sunday crowd at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Cone has reasons to be surprised.
The Gin Kings played their first game since sweeping the San Miguel Beermen in the semifinals close to two weeks ago and his concerns of possibly coming out flat would be understandable.
But that simply wasn’t the case.
Ginebra had loads of energy coming out of the gates, with import Justin Brownlee setting the tone with his hot first quarter shooting. Jamie Malonzo and Scottie Thompson then took turns to make sure Game 1 wouldn’t slip out of the Gin Kings’ hands after TNT got to within two in the third quarter.
“I really didn’t think we’ve done a good job preparing for this game,” Cone shared. “There were a lot of issues going on throughout the 10 days. So I was not 100-percent sure we’re gonna play good tonight.
“But guys came out and they came out really fired up to start the game, I thought. Set a good tone to begin the game,” he added. “It all came together well, surprisingly and we’re able to win.”
Brownlee’s 17 points in the first quarter set things up for an evening of efficient basketball most of the 11,580 fans enjoyed. He finished with 31 points on 11-of-20 shooting with 12 rebounds, four assists and two blocks.
Malonzo had his share in Ginebra’s energetic start with a two-handed dunk, then made several threes in the second half on his way to 21 points, while Thompson quietly had an eighth career triple-double with 10 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists.
Christian Standhardinger, the leading Best Player of the Conference candidate, also came away with 16 points and 11 rebounds and the total team effort that the Gin Kings played with clearly did not make them look like they are without LA Tenorio, the team’s floor leader.
This is the first finals game in quite a number of years that Ginebra is playing without Tenorio, who took a leave from the team to battle Stage 3 colon cancer.
Ginebra also capitalized on TNT’s lack of inside presence after Justin Chua hurt his knee three minutes into the game and Poy Erram once again fouling out in the fourth quarter during the Tropang Giga’s desperate effort trying to catch up.
Ginebra’s defense also limited TNT to 9-of-35 clip from three-point range, way below their 38-percent conversion.
Most of Mikey Williams’ five threes came when the outcome was already settled and he needed 12 attempts to do it to finish with 23 points even as RR Pogoy slumped to just six points on 2-of-10 from the field.
But Cone warns that the Tropang Giga won’t be anemic from long-distance all the time.
“They didn’t have a great shooting night,” Cone said. “But they’re gonna have two or three games where they gonna shoot the lights out and we have nothing to do about it.”
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.
For feedback, complaints, or inquiries, contact us.