Kings manhandle previously untouchable Dragons behind old reliable, franchise future
Barangay Ginebra did what couldn’t be done by other teams in 13 previous attempts: Beat the visiting Bay Area Dragons on Philippine soil.
In doing so, coach Tim Cone got a peek at the future of his Gin Kings.
It was a special Sunday night, indeed, for the Philippine Basketball Association’s (PBA) most popular ball club. Unless you ask Cone.
“I don’t think we did something special,” Cone said after the Gin Kings’ 111-93 victory at PhilSports Arena in Pasig City that handed the Dragons their first loss in the Commissioner’s Cup.
It was also the Dragons’ first loss in the Philippines after winning 13 matches—a mix of exhibition and official PBA games—against a variety of teams: Professional, amateur and fellow visitors.
What the Kings did, Cone said, was approach the game differently. Just three games into the midseason conference, Cone and the Kings came out like they were already playing for the trophy.
“I thought our intensity level was sky high and that was the key to playing them,” Cone said. “It felt like a Finals game for us, it really did. I had that feeling going into the day and we were very motivated.”
Ginebra used a big third quarter hoisted on the back of the hot-shooting Justin Brownlee to pull away from a dogfight of a first half. The all-around showing of Jamie Malonzo also proved to be crucial in the highly anticipated showdown that may have debunked the myth that the championship will have to go through Bay Area.
But while there’s a reason why the Dragons came into the midseason tournament looking capable of going back to Hong Kong with a trophy, there were also signs early in the tournament of kinks in Bay Area’s armor.
Dragons coach Brian Goorjian’s charges won all their nine tuneup games before opening the Commissioner’s Cup with four straight wins. But the Dragons were somewhat exposed on two of those victories.
It took a buzzer-beating three by import Myles Powell for the Dragons to escape defeat against the NorthPort Batang Pier. And before the Ginebra game, Bay Area watched a 23-point lead thin to four before holding off the Converge FiberXers by six.
Somehow, the Dragons were due for a loss.And to bounce back, Bay Area will have to go through yet another powerhouse in June Mar Fajardo and the San Miguel Beermen.
While Bay Area will spend the next few days trying to figure out a way to turn things around, Ginebra hopes to build on a confidence that went up a notch.
They hope to further tutor Malonzo, who came up with 17 points and six rebounds for the Gin Kings, on the team’s system and culture while helping rookie Jeremiah Gray find his rhythm after his long recovery from an anterior cruciate ligament injury. The second overall pick, acquired from the Terrafirma Dyip, scored five points in limited action.
“This is basically the new Ginebra in many ways,” he said. “Jamie and Jeremiah, they have a lot of athleticism to what we do and I think they’re gonna be real fun for games as we go forward.
“They’re still learning about us, they’re still learning about their teammates, they’re still learning about them so we expect them to get better. This is kind of a glimpse of how we can be if we’re on top of our game. We were certainly at the top of our game today.”
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