In Game 7 for the ages, Kings look to achieve something special while Dragons shoot for respect
Game 7 of the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Commissioner’s Cup Finals on Sunday at Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan will not just be about coming away with the victory and a championship trophy before a gigantic crowd.
For Barangay Ginebra, getting an eighth championship in 16 conferences in the decider set at 5:45 p.m. could be the hardest and most fulfilling for coach Tim Cone, resident import Justin Brownlee and the rest of the team.
Facing a formidable team from Hong Kong with the initial goal of competing in the East Asia Super League before taking part in the midseason tournament, Ginebra is determined to pull the biggest of all title victories in recent times.
“That makes this really, really special,” Cone said before the Finals began last Christmas. “Kind of a crowning of all the other ones if we can do it.”
For Bay Area, it will take a crack at being the second foreign team joining the American-bred Nicholas Stoodley in the 1980 Invitational to bag a PBA title.
But the winner-take-all affair is also one final chance for coach Brian Goorjian and the Dragons to leave a lasting impression among Filipino fans, some of whom have been booing the guest squad throughout the series.
“You still have a chance to earn respect on how you compete and how you play,” said Goorjian midway into the series.
Ginebra and Bay Area have traded victories—with some unexpected results—to set up the 29th Game 7 in the league’s colorful history.
The Gin Kings won the odd-numbered games, including the third chapter when they came back from 14 down in the third quarter and seven in the final four minutes to stun the Dragons, 89-82.
Bay Area emerged victorious in even-numbered matches, highlighted by a Game 4 triumph despite playing without injured import Andrew Nicholson and a hard-fought Game 6 when Myles Powell was activated with the Dragons on the brink.
Ginebra fans who will make the long trip to the venue want nothing more than to see their heroes deliver a victory while also displaying the “Never Say Die” spirit that the franchise has been traditionally known for.
But Goorjian also declared that the Dragons also have “NSD” in their DNA.
“It’s what the Filipino pride themselves on, but we wanna match that,” Goorjian said. “We wanna match that, and they certainly have shown it. I’m proud of the fact that we haven’t gone anywhere in this.
“We’ve taken the punches and kept in there throwing them back. It’s a hell of a series,” he added.
Brownlee will lead Ginebra’s bid to stay unbeaten with him in the Finals but needs the supporting cast to make up for the shooting woes that contributed to the Game 6 defeat. That includes Scottie Thompson, Stanley Pringle and LA Tenorio, who have come through for some portions of the series.
Christian Standhardinger, perhaps the unsung hero of Ginebra in the Finals with his defense and timely scoring, and an improved Japeth Aguilar are also out to step up, especially in the paint against Bay Area’s Duncan Reid and 7-foot-5 Liu Chuanxing.
Powell will be the main man for Bay Area as he braces for defensive challenges once more from either Thompson, Nards Pinto or any of Cone’s gambit. Point guard Glen Yang’s playmaking will also be key to make sure the Dragons are set up nicely.
Hayden Blankley and Kobey Lam will look to produce for the Dragons as they did for most of the series, while Zhu Songwei is also eyeing to help the Dragons prevail, if he can stay within the system and lessen his turnovers.