Why not seven games?By Sev Sarmenta
Philippine Daily Inquirer
I WRITE this on the Sunday morning before Game 7 of the PBA Commissioner’s Cup finals erupts. Sunday and Thursday afternoons are this reporter’s deadlines for the pieces just before the sports weekend begins and when it closes out.
As you saw last night and read your Inquirer Sports page today, one squad emerged victorious from the smoke and din.
It’s either B-Meg had won with Tim Cone, finding that there is life on the bench outside of Alaska, or Talk ‘N Text was on its way to another stab at the Grand Slam prize before Chot Reyes tries anew with the national team.
Both coaches earned their keep in this series as they battled through every match, possession and basket.
The coaching was at a truly high level in the series, no matter what happened last night. Reyes and Cone know that they are foils for each other: They are their own version of Boston-Los Angeles, La Salle-Ateneo or the Yankees against anybody.
That they are friends stems from the years Reyes was an assistant to Cone at Alaska.
In a way, they both studied and mastered the triangle offense together. They were disciples of the possibilities of the formation with its emphasis on passing, spacing and maximizing the talents of the five players on the court.
Since they parted ways—because Reyes was due to become a head coach in the PBA—they have battled each other so ferociously that the series that ended last night was nothing new.
They are like Federer and Nadal or Borg and McEnroe when they meet on opposite sides of the court: One top-spin coaching move is countered by a soft volley and there are more than enough baseline salvos from each one.
The PBA and the coaches themselves give credit to the players because, understandably, they are the ones who perform and are followed by the fans. But it is unavoidable when you have two coaches who are really at the top of their game and bring out the best in each other.
That’s why when people approach me at the mall or the supermarket to ask why this series went as far as it did, I tell them to look at the coaching.
Cone and Reyes are playing a chess game that is difficult to predict. Two grandmasters had to manage resources and material in an endless game of adjustment and readjustment.
With two good coaches, I feel it is impossible for a sweep or a short series, unless there’s a ton of bad luck that hits one side. Skeptics’ loose and shallow talk that really has no basis is that the series is just being extended to make a killing at the tills.
By who? How in heaven’s name can that be done? By the referees? The players? Come on. And I thought we knew our basketball.
Both teams want to end a series in the shortest possible time. It’s just that when the coaching is so good and the players are responding to the motivation and the strategizing, then seven games is a definite possibility.
When that happens, we the fans get a dish to relish.
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