Going into Game 3, numbers show alarming TNT trend: A tendency to collapse in the stretch
Both Barangay Ginebra and TNT believe that it is at this point where great teams and players emerge.
TNT believes it a little bit more.
“If you want to be great, you’d have to face adversity,” Bong Ravena, the designated Tropang Giga coach, told reporters here at Smart Clark Giga City in Filipino. “You’re bound to face them all: frustrations, failures. So you really need to have plenty of fight in you.”
Down 2-0 in the race-to-four affair for the PBA Philippine Cup, Ravena and the Tropang Giga may seem like they need to play perfectly in Friday night’s Game 3 at Angeles University Foundation.
What they really need, however, is to hold their nerve a little bit more.
The Gin Kings have built a two-games-to-none cushion largely due to TNT’s inability to perform when it matters the most: in crunch time. And the Tropang Giga’s numbers in the stretch are alarming.
In Game 1, where Barangay Ginebra hammered out a 100-94 overtime victory, TNT missed five of six attempts from the field in extra period. Ray Parks Jr. missed two shots, including a triple, Simon Enciso flubbed two three-pointers and RR Pogoy, who had TNT’s lone basket in the final five minutes, bricked a triple.
Game 2 was even more telling. And it’s not just the way TNT could only watch helplessly as Aljon Mariano hosed down a 15-point Ginebra deficit in the third period to tie the game late in that same quarter. Up by seven with 4:16 to play after a Pogoy triple, TNT closed out the game with seven missed field goals, two turnovers and a free-throw split before Troy Rosario canned a harmless basket and Enciso drained an even more meaningless triple.
Here’s how those miscues were sequenced: Rosario and Pogoy had a miss each before Castro flubbed a triple. TNT was burned by a 24-second violation before Pogoy had another moss and Castro turned the ball over. Enciso missed a triple, Castro had a split before missing another three and Pogoy bricked another triple. By the time Rosario finally made a basket, Ginebra was up, 90-87, with four seconds remaining.
The Kings, meanwhile, seem to know when to kick it up a notch. Scottie Thompson, scoreless for most of Game 2, nailed his only basket when it mattered the most: A triple that gave Barangay Ginebra the lead for good, 87-85, with 30 seconds to play.
But coach Tim Cone is banking on TNT to finally figure things out for Game 3, which tips off at 6 p.m.
“I sound like a broken record, but again, we’re thankful for the win,” Cone told the Inquirer in a text message on Thursday. “But we’re not happy”
“We were outcoached and outhustled for the most part,” he added. “We know … that we have to find the best of ourselves to continue [winning] games in this series. Otherwise, the tide could turn very quickly.”
Ravena could have taken a little comfort in the fact that the Tropang Giga started out strong and had the Gin Kings reeling despite missing top scorer and key wing defender Parks. But he refused to.
“Sure, it could’ve been different if [Ray] was there. But we were still in the game. In fact, we were able to take leads. The bottom line here is we have to play smarter than them,” he added.
Parks remains doubtful for Game 3, although TNT had initially hinted that he would return on Friday.
Pogoy had 38 points on just 22 attempts from the field in Game 2, but his missed triple late in the game was a potential tie-forging basket.
The national team gunner and his fellow Gilas Pilipinas must get their acts together if they want to avoid dropping another game in the series. Only San Miguel Beer has come back from a 0-3 deficit to win a best-of-seven affair.
As it is, the Kings already have a mental edge with their current cushion.
According to the league’s stats chief, Fidel Mangonon III, a 2-0 lead in a best-of-seven PBA Finals has always resulted in Ginebra winning a title.
TNT, however, was able to win the crown twice in the four times they found themselves in a 0-2 rut in a seven-game championship duel.
To pull that off again, the Tropang Giga need to be steadier in the stretch.
“We enjoyed leads but that [showed our] tendency to relax a bit,” Ravena said. “I just hope [Game 2] becomes a lesson [for us].”
Maybe just those last four minutes of Game 2.