TNT coach Jojo Lastimosa is beginning to wonder, four games into the title series, if the Philippine Basketball Association Governors’ Cup Finals is due for at least one cardiac finish.
“We have yet to actually see a close game,” Lastimosa said. “So far, [the margin of wins] have been lopsided.”
That might happen on Wednesday as the two teams hope to grab a 3-2 lead in the 5:45 pm match at Smart Araneta Coliseum and move within one win of capturing the last championship of the league’s 47th season.
So far, the team with a more consistent long-range shooting has ended up with the victory. But Lastimosa shares Ginebra counterpart Tim Cone’s feelings that another factor may come into play in Game 5—and beyond.
“I know it’s gonna boil down to defense in the next three games … if we go to a seventh game,” said Lastimosa.
TNT tied the series last Sunday behind 21 three-pointers, a Finals record. The Tropang Giga have made 36 of 78 triples during their two victories for a 46-percent clip but are only 20 of 64 for 31 percent in the two losses.
It’s the same trend as far as Ginebra is concerned, draining 33 of 68 for 48 percent when it took Game 1 and 3, but converted only 22 of 59 for 37 percent in Game 2 and 4.
Ginebra did make half of its 30 attempts in Game 4, but that went for naught after TNT’s record shooting.
“As long as the defense is constant, you’re gonna be okay and you live with the results,” Lastimosa said.
Cumulative points are actually almost equal despite the lopsided results, with Ginebra scoring 405 compared to TNT’s 404. One-fourth of the Kings’ production has come from Justin Brownlee, whose overall performance in the Finals have been up and down.
Both teams expect Brownlee to get back on track after dealing with foul trouble in Game 4, where he still managed to score 28 points while being defended by a number of TNT players, including Best Import Rondae Hollis-Jefferson.
“As long as guys do what they have to do these next two days, coaches included, we lock in, we focus on the game plan, making adjustments, whatever we need to do, at the end of the day, it’s win by any means necessary. I’m sure we’ll be good,” Hollis-Jefferson said.
Filling the void
The Tropang Giga will once again attempt to get a win and take a series lead for the first time minus RR Pogoy, who is done for the Finals due to a broken pinkie.
Lastimosa has tapped Calvin Oftana to fill the void left by Pogoy and provide problems for Ginebra with his versatility.
Kelly Williams’ return has been encouraging for TNT since it gives the team additional presence in the paint to lessen the workload of Poy Erram, who can be a factor on both ends if he can keep his emotions in check.
Ginebra will try to give Brownlee a lot of cover via Jamie Malonzo, Scottie Thompson, Best Player of the Conference Christian Standhardinger and Stanley Pringle. But the Gin Kings will also try to get important contributions from their other players, namely Jeremiah Gray and Nards Pinto and Japeth Aguilar, who has only played a total of five minutes since returning in Game 3 from a MCL sprain. INQ
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.