Cone sees ‘better’ Rakocevic going after Kings in Game 2
Barangay Ginebra coach Tim Cone prepares for a big response from Magnolia import Nick Rakocevic, whose composure will be put under heavy scrutiny on Friday in Game 2 of the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Commissioner’s Cup semifinals.
All eyes will be on Rakocevic in the 3 p.m. match at PhilSports Arena in Pasig City after a pair of incidents in the best-of-five opener on Wednesday resulted in his ejection and forced Magnolia to play all-Filipino the rest of the way.
But Cone, who steered Ginebra to a hard-fought 87-84 win and will try to gain a commanding 2-0 lead, believes the former Serbian youth player will atone for his mistakes.
“He’ll learn,” Cone said. “He’s a great player. He’s really a smart player and he’ll figure it out. He’s going to come out, I think, extra, extra motivated here in this Game 2 and that’s something we’re going to have to understand and try to meet that challenge because he’s going to be really motivated the next game.”
Rakocevic was tossed for accumulated infractions, the first being a technical in the second quarter when he almost threw an accidental punch on LA Tenorio as he protested a foul for bumping Christian Standhardinger.
A Flagrant Foul 1 in the third quarter for deliberately tripping Standhardinger led to his ejection.
But that didn’t prevent the Hotshots from keeping the game close.
Cone acknowledged that Rakocevic’s loss somehow brought down Ginebra’s level of play, saying that “it can actually become more difficult. Hard to believe, but it does.”
Ginebra sealed the win through defense, forcing Magnolia to miss its final three shots and commit two turnovers in the final two minutes.
The other semis
The Gin Kings drew big games from Jamie Malonzo and Scottie Thompson, making up for the struggles of import Justin Brownlee, who was held to just 11 points—the second lowest of his decorated PBA career.
“That’s what this series is all about, it’s all about counters and adjustments to what the other team is doing,” said Cone of Magnolia’s defense on Brownlee. “They’re going to counter some of the other stuff that we did and we’re going to have to counter some of the stuff that they did.
“I just think that it’s going to be a heck of a series. I’m just happy we got Game 1. Game 1 is crucial. Doesn’t guarantee you win the series and losing Game 1 doesn’t guarantee you lose the series, but it does give you a leg up, a very important leg up, as you go forward.”
Guest team Bay Area also seeks a 2-0 lead against San Miguel Beer in the other semis match at 5:45 p.m.
The Dragons erased a 16-point deficit and pulled off a 103-102 win on Kobey Lam’s layup with 7.1 seconds left, a stunning result for a Beermen side which entered the series with confidence owing to the lineup almost in full force thanks to the return of June Mar Fajardo and Terrence Romeo.
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