Kings cool Hotshots
The box-office dream of a PBA Philippine Cup Final Four match-up has taken such a defensive twist that even Barangay Ginebra coach Tim Cone cannot believe it.
But he sure as heck believes that his Gin Kings are back in the fight after taking down Star, 73-62, on Monday night at Mall of Asia Arena that cut the Hotshots’ best-of-seven series lead to 2-1.
Now, the multititled coach wants more of this type of game, believing that it will ultimately favor his side.
“I thought, before the series, that this would be a defensive battle,” Cone said after limiting the Hotshots to their lowest output of the season and allowing just one player to score in twin digits. “But this is much graver. We’re bleeding for points and so are they.
“It’s not bad basketball, it’s just really good defense,” he said. “And I’d like to think that this favors us. But they’re a great team, too.”
Sol Mercado and Japeth Aguilar combined for 11 points in the fourth where the Kings scooted away in the dying minutes as the Kings grabbed the confidence booster they need going into Wednesday’s Game 4 at Smart Araneta Coliseum after posting the most convincing win of the series thus far.
Star won the first two games by an average of three points and the man responsible for doing that, Paul Lee, got bottled up so hard by the Ginebra defense that he was held to seven points, more than 10 below his average.
“We’re back in the series now and we still have a chance to win this,” Cone, a Grand Slam winner with two different teams, said. “We just need the confidence.”
Coming into the series, Star was easily one of the best, if not the top, offensive teams in the league. But against the bullish Ginebra defense, the Hotshots scored just four points in the last six minutes to lose big.
Mercado went on to finish with 16 points and six assists, while Aguilar wound up with 15 and 13 rebounds.
The Kings also got a lift from the veteran Joe Devance, who took pain killer shots for a left foot injury so he could give Ginebra some inside presence. He finished with six points and six rebounds but is “50-50 for Game 4,” according to Cone.
In the other Final Four series, TNT KaTropa tries to pin San Miguel Beer’s back harder against the wall when the Texters shoot for a commanding 3-1 lead at 7 p.m. also at MoA Arena on Tuesday .
The winner of the series’ last two games, the Texters have all the momentum they need to keep the resilient defending champions at bay.
But if there’s one team that knows how to bounce back, it’s San Miguel, having erased a 0-3 deficit in the championship series against Alaska last season.