Bay Area coach Goorjian likens PBA Finals stint vs Ginebra as ‘us against the world' | Inquirer Sports
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Bay Area coach Goorjian likens PBA Finals stint vs Ginebra as ‘us against the world’

/ 05:02 AM December 30, 2022

Dragons coach Goorjian likens Comm’s Cup Finals stint against crowd-darlings Gin Kings as ‘us against the world,’ but makes it clear they’re here to win

No defensive pressure could cage the Dragons in Game 2. —Photos by AUGUST DELA CRUZ

Coach Brian Goorjian has been harping about the new things the Bay Area Dragons are and will still experience in their Philippine Basketball Association Commissioner’s Cup Finals series with Barangay Ginebra.

That includes playing the role similar to a heel wrestler being booed and jeered by partisan fans ever since this started and will last for at least the next three games of the championship fight.

“It’s like coming in here in the military. It’s us against the world. Helmet’s on, let’s go,” Brian Goorjian said as the Dragons forced a split of the first two games following a 99-82 win on Wednesday at Smart Araneta Coliseum.

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That’s a mentality the guest team from Hong Kong is embracing, especially after getting a breakthrough triumph against the Gin Kings heading into the week-long break to observe the celebration of the new year.

“I thought our guys bit into that, and I told them, [being in the Finals] don’t come often. Enjoy the experience, get out of this environment and play under this pressure. It’s gotta be something you enjoy,” added Goorjian.

Bay Area evened the best-of-seven affair by shrugging off the effects of a Christmas Day defeat three nights prior with a more-comfortable performance even before a crowd of 16,044 that didn’t want to see the Dragons win at the Big Dome.

Improved sniping

Import Andrew Nicholson seemed to have found an antidote against the physicality underneath while Zhu Songwei had a strong start behind his versatility of attacking the basket and hitting the outside shot.

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Another important factor was Bay Area’s outside shooting, which slightly improved from 31 percent (13-of-42) to 36 percent (11-of-30) in Game 2. But the timing of how the Dragons converted it in both halves was huge since those shots were able to make it hard for the Gin Kings to come back.

Hayden Blankley knocked down half of his six triple attempts in a huge recovery from missing all nine from there in Bay Area’s 96-81 Game 1 setback.

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“I said to the group to do what you did in the last game. Take your shots, you got my full backing. I’m gonna coach that other side of the ball—the rebounding, the defense,” he said.

Goorjian shortened his rotation by giving heavy playing time to Nicholson, Zhu, Glen Yang, Kobey Lam, Blankley and Ju Mingxin, another local player who is beginning to play an important role at this stage of the campaign.

Ju scored nine points, including one three late in the first quarter. While the Dragons had a 17-point advantage whenever he’s on the floor, he is tasked mostly for defensive purposes against Justin Brownlee and Ginebra’s other wingmen.

The complete turnaround from learning the Finals experience the hard way is a positive thing for Goorjian and the Dragons, who hope to see their growth translate into three more victories against the Gin Kings and their supporters.

“A lot of talk about young and learning and all of this. We’re here through that process to win this damn thing. I’ve been in this game a long time. You don’t get in [the Finals] very often. I don’t,” Goorjian said.

“And when I get in there and we get in there, I’m trying to make them realize, it doesn’t happen often. How many of you guys have ever played in one before? No hands went up.

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“So this is special. Learn on the hop. We’re here to win,” he concluded. INQ

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