Scottie Thompson warned that starting a best-of-seven championship series with a victory is far different from winning the title.
“At least, we have an early lead against them. But, it’s not an assurance that we will end up winning the series,” the Barangay Ginebra star said in Filipino last Easter Sunday after the Kings drew first blood with a 102-90 Game 1 victory over the TNT Tropang Giga in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Governors’ Cup Finals.
Winning Game 2, however, puts Ginebra halfway to a successful defense. And the Kings hope to make that Game 1 victory count by producing a 2-0 series lead in Game 2 on Wednesday at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Game time is at 5:45 pm, with Ginebra looking to ride the odds: 61 of 91 Game 1 winners in a PBA Finals had gone on to win the title. The percentages have stayed true of late, with four of the last six Game 1 winners emerging as champions.
Ginebra knows to put little stock in Game 1 wins. The Kings dropped the Finals opener against Meralco in last season’s Governors’ Cup title bout and went on to win the crown.
That is why Thompson and the Gin Kings want to make sure that they won’t give the Tropang Giga a lifeline, and Ginebra has singled out its defense on import Rondae Hollis-Jefferson as something that will play a key role in Game 2.
“He is an absolute NBA stud player and he doesn’t have a lot of weaknesses,” Cone said of the TNT import, who had 30 points and 20 rebounds in Game 1.
Bracing for recovery
“Maybe he doesn’t shoot from deep very often, but around the basket, going to the basket, in transition, he’s the real load. So we’re just trying to defend him the best way we can, finding different looks from different players and get help to our guy when we can,” added Cone.
Cone is bracing for a big TNT recovery, particularly an improved outside shooting after making just five triples in Game 1.
“[T]hey’re going to have two or three games where they just shoot the lights out and there’s probably nothing we can do about it,” Cone said, adding that the Kings hope to pounce on TNT’s issue in the middle.
Kelly Williams is still doubtful for the series due to injury. Justin Chua could be a Game 2 scratch after hurting his knee in the first quarter of Game 1. Poy Erram is having trouble controlling his emotions.
“They have to go small against us and that causes problems for us in terms of matches. But it also causes problems for them as well. It’s basically whoever’s going to take advantage of that situation,” Cone said.
Erram needed to shoulder the center chores for TNT in Game 1 but left the Tropang Giga disappointed when he was called for back-to-back fouls—the last, a pointless pinch at Christian Standhardinger’s side after seemingly losing his cool on a previous whistle against him, banishing him to the bench.
“But Poy’s a really important part of what they do because he is a guy that protects the rim. He has the size to play Christian and he can also go to help on Justin [Brownlee]. He’s an important part of what they do,” Cone said.
Brownlee was a threat for TNT in Game 1, scoring 17 in the first quarter on his way to 31 points. His play set the tone for the rest of the team, with Jamie Malonzo, Thompson, Standhardinger and company playing well for the Gin Kings.
Limiting Brownlee’s production, or his movement, is a goal RR Pogoy and the Tropang Giga will try to accomplish in their hopes of equaling the series after two games.
“I need to find a way to defend not just Justin but the other players as well,” said Pogoy, who shared responsibilities with Paul Varilla and Glenn Khobuntin in guarding Brownlee during the first game. 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.