The Gin Kings bounced back after losing the previous two games, shutting down Meralco when it mattered to pull off an 85-74 victory and take a 3-2 edge in the best-of-seven series before an all-time Finals record of more than 36,000 fans at Philippine Arena here.
Greg Slaughter and LA Tenorio, missing entities for the Kings in the last game, came out and asserted their identities early as Ginebra built an 18-point lead in the first half before finishing off the Bolts with a flurry in the endgame.
But coach Tim Cone said that, at this point, they would like to think of playing just one more game.
“It doesn’t win us anything, but in a best-of-three series, it’s important for us to win the first game.” Cone said. “You got to go out for a win [in this game] so you can dictate the next two games.
“But our mentality right now is we want to play just one more game,” added the league’s winningest coach of all-time. “We’ll worry about Game 6 in an hour. Right now, we just want to enjoy this one.”
Slaughter challenged every shot inside and fought hard for every rebound he could get involved in, while Tenorio came back from a scoreless Game 4 to jumpstart the Ginebra offense with nine first quarter points that got off the Kings on the right foot.
Ginebra built an 18-point lead but found itself in a dogfight in the third quarter with the Bolts, who connected from afar to even take the lead a couple of times.
But when the going was at its toughest, Tenorio and Slaughter got all the help they needed as the Kings held Meralco to two Allen Durham free throws for more than five minutes near the end of the contest to pull away.
“We just didn’t battle, we went to war,” Cone said.
GINEBRA 85 – MERALCO 74
GINEBRA 85—Brownlee 20, Slaughter 17, Tenorio 17, Devance 12, Aguilar 8, Thompson 5, Caguioa 4, Ferrer 2.
MERALCO 74—Durham 27, Lanete 11, Hugnatan 8, Caram 7, Hodge 6, Dillinger 6, Newsome 5, Amer 4, Tolomia 0, Faundo 0.
Quarters: 21-15, 42-35, 66-62, 85-74