Cone and Gin Kings tick off boxes with thunderous Game 7 triumph
Barangay Ginebra ticked several boxes on Sunday night after clinching the 2022 Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Commissioner’s Cup in electric fashion at Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan.
The Gin Kings defeated the visiting Bay Area Dragons, 114-99, in a classic Game 7 to hike their championship tally to 15, delight a record 54,589 fans and ultimately defend the pride of Asia’s pioneering pro league.
To pull it off, coach Tim Cone just “made things simple.”
“It wasn’t anything special,” he told reporters in the customary postgame chat as the revelries in the cavernous venue died down. “We didn’t want to make complex game plans.”
“We wanted the players to come out and play to their instincts [and] not have to think too much,” added Cone, who had said during the series that his team was playing for the pride of the league. “Just go out and play, be aggressive and be not afraid to shoot the ball.”
The Kings also vaulted past Cone’s previous teams, Alaska and Magnolia, for No. 2 on the list of franchises with most championships
Ginebra’s 15 titles is still far from San Miguel Beer’s all-time mark of 28. But Cone, who now has 25 titles, is not counting—at least not yet.
“I didn’t think about that,” he said. “I’d learned moving on from [NBA coach] Phil Jackson … I don’t worry about whether it’s 24 or 25. I’m just moving on, looking for the next one. I’m trying to get our guys to play at a high level and give themselves a chance to win. That’s basically my philosophy.”
“From all the observations and the readings that I did through the years of Phil Jackson, I felt that was the secret of his success in my study of him. That’s something I tried to adopt,” Cone added.
Newly-minted Filipino Justin Brownlee led Ginebra’s charge, helping the Gin Kings to an early 22-point advantage for the biggest halftime lead in the series.
“I thought Justin came out and kind of set that tone for us. He was hitting shots early, and that kind of got contagious for everybody else,” Cone said of his indefatigable import who continued to stay spotless in the PBA Finals with six titles in six Finals appearances.
It was also fitting that Ginebra produced a championship performance for the record crowd, because the thunderous support of the fans helped that performance anyway.
Bay Area had trimmed the deficit to 13, but the energy provided by the audience helped the Kings weather the Dragons’ last stand.
“Like I said, we were totally surprised at how well we played, and that we were able to handle Bay Area,” said Cone. “The only explanation we can really give is that the crowd lifted us into that kind of performance.”
That energy—and Brownlee’s hot start—rubbed off on other Ginebra standouts. Reigning Most Valuable Player (MVP) Scottie Thompson got going in the second frame to help forge that cushion, while Jamie Malonzo waxed hot in the third when the Kings were repelling the Dragons’ comeback tries.
“Scottie hit one, and Jamie just had a huge game tonight. Not just in scoring, but in offensive rebounding, blocking shots, running the floor. His energy level was off the roof tonight. He was awesome. But again, everybody was,” said Cone.
They weren’t the only ones.
Japeth Aguilar, LA Tenorio, and eventual Finals MVP Christian Standhardinger all scored in twin digits to help Ginebra’s lead swell to as many as 28 points.
“I rode my horses tonight. I rode Justin really hard, we played him what, 47 minutes? I played Jamie, Jamie was cramping the last five to six minutes of the game. After the game, Christian … was cramping also,” Cone said.
“I rode LA hard, considering that he had a terrible injury. And then obviously, I rode Scottie really hard, too, making him guard [import Myles] Powell for the last two games. So I rode my horses really hard tonight, and they really responded.” INQ