Tenorio: Bay Area depth squeezed out by Nicholson absence
Much of Barangay Ginebra’s preparations for the PBA Commissioner’s Cup finalé have been contingent on Bay Area’s import Andrew Nicholson.
So when the Dragons went on to play without the Canadian ace on Friday night—and with so much zest and confidence at that—the crowd darlings were stunned.
“Coming into this game, we weren’t sure if Nicholson will play or not. I guess we fell into that trap. What we feared would happen, happened,” the Gin Kings’ veteran playmaker LA Tenorio told reporters on the heels of a 94-86 Game 4 loss at Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City that leveled the best-of-seven series at two games apiece.
“The things they’ve been doing changed when [Andrew sat out]. It seems like they played really loose and to their strength … Whenever [Andrew] was there, they [Dragons] looked for him. And since he was absent, a lot stepped up,” the league’s Iron Man added.
“Our mindset was to stop Nicholson whatever it takes. He has been their point of attack,” he went on. “[Tonight,] they were unpredictable. Their talent and strengths showed as I’ve pointed out.”
Kobey Lam dropped 30 points built on a deadly three-point shooting, while Glen Yang and Zhu Songwei each chipped in 18 into the scoring effort that plugged the scoring void left by Nicholson who hurt his left ankle in the previous meeting.
“We have to look at our execution on defense. That doomed us this game. And they [Dragons] made really tough shots toward the end of the game, and we should’ve not let it come to that,” said Tenorio.
The crowd darlings enjoyed leads as big as 12 points in the first half and saw that cushion evaporate in the third. Before 17,236 screaming souls—the second biggest attendance in this title series—the Gin Kings slid to a 13-point hole, ultimately missing out on the golden chance to seize control of the race.
“Again, they’re a good and well-coached team,” Tenorio said of the enemy, which is seeking to become the first guest outfit to win it all since Ron Jacob’s Northern Consolidated Cement back in the 1985 Reinforced Conference.
“They’re not going to go down easily, and we knew that coming into this series. This is why it’s a championship series,” he added. “Time for us now to adjust. It’s now a best-of-three, so we got to get ‘Game 1’ this Sunday.”
Bay Area is likely going to continue missing Nicholson as he just began walking again on Friday. But the NBA veteran remains optimistic that he could return to the fold should the series go the distance.
“We’re just gonna take it day by day to see how it goes. Hopefully, it will be better [Sunday]. I’ll just continue with the treatment, continue to take some meds, and just recuperate,” he said.
“Day by day. I’m trying to be optimistic about it, but we’ll see,” Nicholson added.
Ginebra, which is sort of doubling as a National Team in a clash many spectators frame as “Philippines versus China” is also bullish.
“Good news about this, we still have a next game. This would’ve hurt differently if this was our last,” said Tenorio.
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