Gin Kings are now the favorites with TNT’s Parks likely to sit out Game 2
More than his charges’ spectacular team play, Barangay Ginebra coach Tim Cone was proud of his wards’ desire on Sunday night.
“You can’t underestimate how important the all-Filipino crown is. We want it, and I think we showed that,” Cone said after a 100-94 overtime victory gutted out when all seemed lost in the waning seconds of regulation and after the Gin Kings held talented TNT to just one field goal for all of the extra five minutes in Game 1 of the PBA Philippine Cup Finals.
Overtime showcased a spirited Ginebra side that refused to show signs of fatigue, as Stanley Pringle and Aljon Mariano hit timely baskets and with the entire team gang-defending to hold the Tropang Giga to just that one basket that came at the final 1:20 mark.
Japeth Aguilar then delivered an empathic two-handed slam to ice the count and give the crowd darlings something to start Game 2 with.
“[W]hen you put in perspective that we came from a five-game series, and having to come in here and stretch ourselves to overtime? I’m very proud of our team and I’m sure they are proud of theirs (Tropang Giga) as well—at least effort-wise,” Cone said.
But Cone and his Kings earned the point that mattered that night, and they have all the momentum they need going into the second game on Wednesday as TNT, as the team had reported, will likely miss Bobby Ray Parks Jr. because of a strained calf injury he aggravated on Sunday night.
The tournament leader in statistical points with a 38.3 average, will likely return for Friday’s Game 3, although the team is not discounting the fact that he could play and give the Tropang Giga a lift.
He led TNT with 20 points that went with five steals, but the injury that forced him to sit out the first game in the bubble against Alaska acted up.
And it couldn’t have come at the most inconvinient time as far as the Tropang Giga are concerned.
The Kings were on the verge of losing Game 1, as Parks had two free throws to give TNT a three-point lead. He split his charities with 12 seconds remaining, and it was more than enough time that Cone needed to draw up an overtime-sealing play before Ginebra put the finishing touches in extension and wrested psychological control going into the next game.
But Cone, who has seen it all in this league in a career that has gone on for more than three decades and counting, refuses to talk with confidence.
“They have a lot of weapons over there, they have a lot of ways they could play the game,” Cone said of the enemy. “This is just the first game. There’s going to be a lot of back-and-forth in terms of everything—in terms of scoring and in terms of adjustment.”
For TNT coach Bong Ravena, sloppy plays during the most crucial times did his Tropang Giga in.
“We were really sloppy,” he told reporters here. “The whole game, we’ve been struggling with our defense. And we can’t afford that. That was totally different compared to the way [we defended] in the semis against Phoenix.”
Cone is not expecting a short series, but wouldn’t mind, obviously, wrapping this up shorter than the seven-game route.
He has been very mindful of the minutes his aces have played before the Finals, even taking a lot of flak for benching his starters in a loss to San Miguel Beer near the end of the eliminations.
And with that, he seems to be on the way to having the last laugh.
“Let’s see how fresh people can stay in this truly rigorous seven-game series,” he said. INQ
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