There was a sense of accomplishment among some of the TNT players as they went back to the locker room following a hard-fought Game 5 win that put them closer to the finish line of the PBA Governors’ Cup Finals.
But coach Jojo Lastimosa does not feel any comfort, not when Wednesday night’s 104-95 victory came against a gassed Barangay Ginebra that lost Justin Brownlee to food poisoning mid-game.
Especially since the Gin Kings are a team that thrive on adversity. And TNT was in a similar 3-2 lead before eventually losing to San Miguel Beer in this season’s Philippine Cup Finals.
“I wish I can flip the script (of the San Miguel series),” said Lastimosa after the Tropang Giga reached the doorstep of a season-ending title. “But it’s easier said than done, especially against Ginebra, especially against [Ginebra coach Tim Cone]especially against Brownlee.”
And despite taking the series lead for the first time, Lastimosa doubled down on his team being underdogs in the race-to-four affair.
“You have to understand that coming in here, we have nothing to lose,” Lastimosa said. “These guys are playing, and if we were given the opportunity to grab it, we will.
“But they’re still the favourites. Even if we’re up 3-2, we’re not complacent. We know how hard it is to win against them,” he added.
TNT expects to see Brownlee back in Ginebra’s do-or-die situation. He started well on Wednesday despite his predicament but hopes of a so-called “Flu Game” to remember, reminiscent of Michael Jordan’s memorable performance in an NBA Finals game despite suffering from apparent food poisoning, fizzled out when Brownlee could not play in the second half of the match.
The result stunned most of the midweek crowd of 10,070, who had watched the Kings lead by as many as 14 early on.
And with Brownlee out, the other import in this series took his cue to shine.
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson carried TNT back from that 14-point hole to begin the third quarter and finished with 32 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists in another performance that validated his status as the conference’s Best Import.
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