No stopping hurting Gin Kings
The two giant-killers early in the PBA Governors’ Cup finally found their match last week with defending champion Barangay Ginebra capping the startling development by grabbing the lead with back-to-back victories despite a virtually crippled lineup.
With 7-footer Greg Slaughter and 6-foot-9 Japeth Aguilar in sick bay along with five others, the Gin Kings downed the San Miguel Beermen also missing the injured June Mar Fajardo and Marcio Lassiter, 110-102, last Sunday before wresting the leadership from Phoenix Petroleum with a 101-99 decision over the Fuel Masters Saturday in Cagayan de Oro.
Aljun Mariano and Joe DeVance provided key support for Justin Brownlee in both victories. The Best Import of the last Commissioner’s Cup, who had a combined total of 63, also personally sealed the win over Phoenix by breaking up a last-ditch attempt by Matthew Wright in the dying seconds of play.
Wright led Phoenix with 27.
The Kings, seeking a second straight title and record third straight in this event, moved on top with a 5-1 win-loss slate halfway through the one-round eliminations that will reward the top four teams with a twice-to-beat incentive in the quarterfinals.
Phoenix fell to second at 5-2 followed by the other strong-starting squad Blackwater at 4-1 and NLEX at 4-2.
The Elite had earlier set a franchise record by finally leading a tournament behind a four-game opening romp until the Road Warriors, with coach Yeng Guiao back from steering the national five to fifth place in the recent Asian Games, ended the streak with a 124-106 rout last Wednesday.
Magnolia and Alaska remain in the thick of the fight for a top 4 slot as they share second to fourth places at 4-1 and 3-1, respectively, but the Beermen (2-3) and the TNT KaTropa (4-4) need a lot of scrambling to secure the coveted quarterfinal bonus.
SMB has tapped former Utah Jazz Kevin Murphy to replace the struggling AZ Reid while TNT has a new coaching staff after sacking Nash Racela.
Meralco, on leave from the PBA to represent the country in the 2019 Fiba Asia Champions Cup in Thailand, is another squad in dire straits at 1-3 along with the winless trio of cellar dwellers Rain or Shine (0-2), NorthPort (0-6) and Columbian Dyip (0-6).
The Bolts dropped their first two games in Thailand but they won’t be able to rejoin the PBA soon after Meralco crushed defending champion Al Riyadi of Lebanon, 96-63, Saturday and made it to the next round by superior quotient.
Meralco, Al-Riyadi and host team Mono Vampire finished the eliminations tied at 1-2 behind unbeaten Alvark Tokyo of Japan but the Bolts advanced with a quotient of plus-22.
The Bolts earlier lost, 100-92, to the Thais and 84-73 to the Japanese.
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