After trading wins so far, Gin Kings and Dragons target critical Game 5 victory
Brian Goorjian and Tim Cone always insist that one game does not turn the complexion of any championship series, including the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Commissioner’s Cup Finals which has been reduced to a best-of-three affair.
“Winning a game means nothing,” Goorjian said as the Bay Area Dragons hope to ride on the crest of their big win the last time and gain a 3-2 lead over Barangay Ginebra on Sunday at Mall of Asia Arena.
But Game 5 set at 5:45 p.m. may possibly be the one that could eventually define what has been a series filled with twists and turns from either side.
Ginebra and Bay Area have traded wins since the Finals started last Christmas, with the last two games ending in comeback fashion.
“This is a series, you got to win four,” Goorjian said. “But it keeps this thing interesting for everybody. It wouldn’t have been anything worse than going down 3-1 and losing with 30, and going to a game again, then the series is over.
“We’ve got something. There’s more to this and we want to make it. We have a responsibility to make this a great series for the PBA,” he added.
Bay Area prevented going down 3-1 in the title clash, bucking the absence of Andrew Nicholson due to a sprained ankle to pull off a 94-86 win before 17,236 fans who were mostly stunned by Ginebra’s failure to protect a 12-point second quarter lead.
“It was disappointing,” lamented Cone through a text message the day after. “We had a chance to really gain some traction on the series and put Bay Area on the brink. But you have to tip your cap to Bay Area. Despite missing their import, they came into the game with great spirit and played with a great motor all game long.”
The Dragons got the win led by a 30-point barrage from Kobey Lam, steady playmaking from Glen Yang and a more-composed Zhu Songwei. But Goorjian also got contributions from big men Duncan Reid and 7-foot-5 Liu Chuanxing, who showed that the absence of Nicholson can be filled in the middle.
“I kept saying [that] this is a seven-game series, the playoffs is a different thing, they come day after day, you got to remain ready. I do believe in him [Reid] and he was a key piece [in Game 5]. We played through their pressure with him on catches, and played off him,” the Bay Area coach said.
“I just thought Liu did enough defensively to get by and he was a real presence on the glass just with his sheer size. We did get an advantage out of him which we didn’t against San Miguel [in the semifinals].”
Both Reid and Chuanxing are likely to get heavy minutes even with still a little room for Nicholson to return, provided that his left ankle improves enough for him to see action.
Cone, as well as Best Player of the Conference Scottie Thompson and Best Import Justin Brownlee, acknowledged that Ginebra may have taken for granted Bay Area’s situation with Nicholson prior to Game 4, and it proved to be costly in the end.
It’s perhaps a harsh lesson for everyone at the Ginebra camp. But Cone, as he had been preaching even before the two teams clashed, said that things can be remedied even as the plot thickens in the series between protagonists.
“We have no excuses,” said Cone. “Like we said at the beginning, this is going to be a tough series.”
“Nothing ever comes easy in the Finals.”
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.