Kings tie series, 1-1
BARANGAY Ginebra bounced back from a painful Game 1 loss in the PBA Governors’ Cup Finals against Meralco last night, and coach Tim Cone believes that the process of learning to play a series together as a team continues.
“We still have to see that,” Cone told the Inquirer, when asked if his Gin Kings, after knotting the best-of-seven series at 1-all after an 82-79 nipping of the Bolts at Smart Araneta Coliseum, now know how to string together wins in a playoff series.
“One thing for sure was that this was a must-win for us,” Cone went on. “I wouldn’t have wanted to go into a Game 3 trailing them 0-2. So we will see how we react to (coming out again) playing after a win.”
In the Final Four where they bundled out powerhouse San Miguel Beer and June Mar Fajardo, the Kings won the odd-numbered games in the best-of-five series, not once coming close to winning back-to-back games.
“I’d like to think that we have learned our lesson from that series,” said Cone, who now has won 90 Finals games in his career.
The Kings got 32 points and 12 rebounds from import Justin Brownlee and the key basket from Sol Mercado with 28.2 seconds remaining that broke the game’s last tie at 79.
“It was a play that was getting nowhere until Sol made that putback,” Cone said of the game-winning play, before Mercado forced Allen Durham to an ugly miss on the other end that sealed the Bolts’ fate.
Game 3 is set on Wednesday at 7 p.m. also at the fabled Big Dome, and Cone believes that the burden of adjustment is now on the side of counterpart Norman Black.
“Now the ball is in their court,” Cone said. “The series just ping-pongs as far as adjustments are concerned. We have to be able to adjust to the adjustments that they (Bolts) will make.”
Mercado, aside from playing defense on Durham all night, finished with 12 points with Mark Caguioa the third and last man in twin digits for Cone in the defense-oriented game.
“I told my players that it would be very difficult to win if you don’t rebound,” Black said later. “We lost that game on an offensive rebound by Sol. That (rebounding) will be the top conversation in practice (today).”
Durham scored 22 points that went with 15 rebounds and four assists for the Bolts.
Earlier, TNT KaTropa franchise player Jason Castro was named Best Player of the Conference.
He has just one mind-set at this stage of his colorful career.
“I need to keep getting better, because every year, a lot of good players are entering the league,” the 6-foot Castro told reporters in a mix of English and Filipino. “I just want to improve every conference.”
Castro missed the short rites honoring the conference’s best after being stuck in traffic at the North Luzon Expressway coming from Subic. But he talked a lot about his future after winning his fourth BPC award—the first time with his team not making the Finals.
“I am happy (winning this award), but whenever I remember our series against (TNT Final Four conqueror) Meralco, it saddens me,” he said. “All credit to them (Bolts) because they played very well and both teams deserve to be there (in the Finals).”
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