Chopped down in Finals series opener, Lastimosa chooses to look at the bright side
Jojo Lastimosa hardly looked defeated as he emerged from the TNT dugout following the Tropang Giga’s 102-90 Game 1 loss to Barangay Ginebra in the Philippine Basketball Association Governors’ Cup Finals on Sunday night.
He knew exactly what doomed his charges in the curtain-raiser of the best-of-seven finalé at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
“We couldn’t make shots. Just couldn’t make shots,” he told reporters as he shook his head. “And my team relies so much on offense. Defense is always going to be there in the Finals, but if you can’t make shots, you get no chance.”
The conference leader for points scored per contest, the Tropang Giga bricked their way through the series opener and fell behind early after the Gin Kings’ strong start led by resident backup Justin Brownlee.
Import Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Mikey Williams and Calvin Oftana willed Tropang Giga to within 54-52 in the third quarter, but the Ginebra began dealing damage from inside and outside and proved too much for the No. 1 seed to handle.
“We only had nine turnovers in that game. [But] we made only  percent of our (three-point) shots, and they (Gin Kings) made 41,” said Lastimosa.
It’s not that Lastimosa is grasping at silver linings.
Even Ginebra coach Tim Cone felt that TNT’s shooting—the lack of it, particularly—played a huge factor in the result.
“They didn’t have a great shooting night tonight,” Cone said. “But they’re going to have two or three games where they just shoot the lights out and there’s probably nothing we can do about it. Tonight, that didn’t happen so we were able to control the game a little bit.”
TNT has only been held under the century mark twice in this tournament, according to stats chief Fidel Mangonon III.
The overall shooting percentages of both teams weren’t too far apart. TNT and Ginebra each took 90 shots with the Tropang Giga knocking down 35 and the Gin Kings doing slightly better at 90.
But it was from beyond the arc that the defending champions out-performed their foes. Ginebra made 15 of 36 three-point attempts for a 41-percent clip while TNT sank just nine out of 35 attempts to stay a shade below 25 percent.
The 18-point disparity in made threes, according to Lastimosa, could have sunk the Tropang Giga in a deeper hole—thus the coach’s optimism.
“We would’ve had multiple opportunities to get back in the game. As badly as we played, Ginebra really didn’t pull away. They weren’t up by as much as 20-plus points. They were just leading 15, 12,” Lastimosa said.
“So I think that was the positive part for us [is] that as badly as we played, we were still in the game.”
TNT also hopes to address the other concerns that arose from Game 1, including how Poy Erram turned into a liability on a night he had to embrace a bigger role because of the injury that decommissioned starting center Justin Chua.
Erram had to sit the game out early swiftly, maxing his fouls in Game 1. His last foul reeked of immaturity. He was first whistled for an offensive foul after a push on Ginebra big man Christian Standhardinger and in the ensuing sequence, with the ball still not in play, Erram appeared to pinch Standhardinger’s side, drawing a whistle for his sixth foul.
Chua is listed as doubtful pending the results of an examination on his knee while TNT is already missing Kelly Williams (calf problem), leaving Erram as the team’s last legitimate threat in the middle.
“Poy’s got to do a better job of controlling his emotions. We talked about it as a staff and I already talked about it and I was actually pissed at him and his teammates were actually getting on him because he’s beginning to be a distraction when he complains too much,” Lastimosa said.
“And we need Poy. We need him, we need his head to be in the game,” he added. INQ