PBA: Barangay Ginebra eyes series sweep vs NLEX
Christian Standhardinger played with sustained brilliance on Friday night, helping Barangay Ginebra buck Japeth Aguilar’s absence in the PBA Governors’ Cup semifinals series against NLEX.
The two-time champion and 2019 Best Player of the Conference finished with 17 points and 11 rebounds against NLEX, for a second straight double-double in the playoffs.
“Just trying to fulfill whatever role is best for the team to give us the biggest chance to win,” he said on his way out of Mall of Asia Arena after the Gin Kings’ 104-94 victory over the Road Warriors.
“I think we did a good job today, just sticking together and trying to somehow compensate for [Japeth’s absence], which is very hard to do because he is an amazing player,” he added.
He’s going to have to reprise that performance as Barangay Ginebra tries to slam the door shut on NLEX on Sunday at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Gin Kings seized a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five series after Friday’s victory to stand at the doorstep of a championship berth.
“It was good to get the win, but we have to move on, forget about [Game 2], and focus on the next,” Standhardinger said. “I hope we can make it.”
“We feel like we can afford to give Justin Brownlee his numbers. What we cant afford is allowing their locals to be involved,” NLEX coach Yeng Guiao said of their 7 p.m. duel in Game 3 of the series.
“We’re trying to get our first win. If we can get that, maybe the complexion of the series is going to change,” he added.
The Road Warriors blew an 11-point lead in the second frame and then struggled at mounting any sort of fightback with import Cameron Clark fouling out halfway through the final period.
“I think the challenge for us is how to handle [Ginebra’s] zone on Sunday,” said Guiao. “It’s not like we’re just going to hand it (the series) to them that easily.”
Standhardinger was also one big reason why Clark played subpar, but the Filipino-German standout picked first overall back in the 2017 PBA Rookie Draft, stressed he has had help all night long.
“Joe [Devance] did a great job. Justin [Brownlee] did a good job. They really did. They kept [Clark] down. And I think that’s a big factor for us winning the game,” he said.
While Ginebra tries to boot out NLEX, in the other semifinal bracket, Meralco and Magnolia are out to break a deadlock in their Game 3 duel.
For a change, Meralco kept it together against Magnolia on Friday night and Bolts coach Norman Black hailed his charges’ gutsy 81-75 triumph over the top-seeded Hotshots.
But he was also quick to add a dash of cautious optimism to his team’s morale.
“Well, we have a bit more momentum now, so that’s going to help us. We showed them we can beat them at this conference even though we lost to them twice, so that’s also going to help our confidence,” he said.
Meralco battles Magnolia in Sunday’s 3 p.m. opener
“But you know, the next game is another game—a new game. So we have to come out with the same intensity,” he went on.
Meralco turned in an unrelenting effort on defense that night, clamping down on Magnolia’s stars. Import Mike Harris managed 25 points but Paul Lee was the only other Hotshot in double figures, finishing with 10.
Harris, for his part, was in no mood to make a mountain out of a molehill, simply chalking up the loss as an “off night.”
“I think it all started at practice on Thursday. We were not mentally locked in. We got a little complacent, I think,” said the former Best Import awardee.
“We didn’t come into this series thinking we were going to sweep Meralco at 3-0. They’re too good of a team for that and they’ve proven that they always bounce back,” he added.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.