Closing it out
“Close-out games are the hardest to win, harder than Game 7s,” said Cone of the Gin Kings’ drive to deliver the deathblow to the San Miguel Beermen on Wednesday night in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Effectively shutting down the San Miguel offense in the closing minutes while finding a hero in guard Scottie Thompson on the other end, Ginebra gained control of the race-to-four series Sunday to move within a win of celebrating another milestone for Cone and the famed ballclub.
“It’s hard to beat a team who is trying to stay alive, but when you play a Game 7, it’s 50-50 for these guys you’re battling,” said Cone, who is eyeing an unprecedented 21st PBA title. “That’s why close-out games are difficult because the other team has a lot more at stake.”
Cone’s major hurdles will be Renaldo Balkman, who sowed terror in the paint all night long in Game 5, and seven-time Best Player of the Conference June Mar Fajardo. But there will be more: Christian Standhardinger, Arwind Santos, Chris Ross, Alex Cabagnot and Marcio Lassiter, form a fearsome Beermen core.
“I mean they (Beermen) are just too good, too explosive and at any given night, can put up 140 points,” he added.
But that’s not the Beermen’s goal. They merely want to push the series to a deciding match. And Santos reminded everyone that a one-game cushion is nothing.
“It’s not yet over. This is only one game. Remember, we were able to win a championship (versus Alaska in the 2016 Philippine Cup) after being down 0-3,” said Santos.
But Cone will be ready. As will be Thompson.
Cone, who was saved in Game 6 by Thompson in the stretch and likened his gutsy guard to NBA star Russell Westbrook, has changed his tune from what he’d be singing earlier in the series.
Cone told reporters early on that his goal was to take this duel to a Game 7.
“Obviously, we don’t want to go into a Game 7 now that we have an advantage,” said Cone.
And Thompson will lead the charge to make sure Ginebra gets the job done.
“Expect that I will again be aggressive tonight (Wednesday),” said Thompson, who scored six of Ginebra’s last nine points that erased the San Miguel’s five-point lead in the final two minutes.
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