June 16, 2017

Ginebra looks to even series

A FAVORABLE twist of fate played a large part in Barangay Ginebra avoiding elimination against TNT KaTropa in their PBA Commissioner's Cup semi-final series.

That same good fortune could help the Kings more than stay alive when they clash anew with the KaTropa Saturday in Game Four of the best-of-five duel at the Cuneta Astrodome.

TNT coach Nash Racela did not return calls nor reply to text messages Friday regarding the status of Joshua Smith, but a team insider say it is doubtful if the import would be 100 percent for Saturday's game.

"The MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) results came back negative, so walang punit sa ligament on his right foot,"" said the source on the eve of the match.

"Kaya lang, Joshua is still complaining of pain as of this afternoon kaya he will probably remain a game time decision by tomorrow."

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Smith playing injured or simply not at full capacity should bode well for Ginebra, which hacked out a 125-101 victory last Thursday to cut its deficit in the best-of-five series to 1-2.

With Justin Brownlee leading the way and his local teammates providing ample support, the Kings managed to play like the eliminations topnotcher that they are and dodge the KaTropa's broom.

The injury to Smith, which he sustained with just over seven minutes to go in the second quarter of Game 3 and forced him to sit out the rest of the way, was also a big deal and even Ginebra coach Tim Cone had to admit that.

"Our advantage tonight, he tweaked his foot and had to sit down," said Cone of the 6-9, 330-lb Smith, who torched Ginebra for 35 points in the series opener and went into the game averaging 23.6 points and 14.1 rebounds.

"But we were playing very well even before that happened."

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Notching the breakthrough win was Ginebra's most immediate objective, added Cone, and it is now time to ride the momentum gained.

"Our goal is try and get this thing to a Game 5. We said that before this game and if we get this to a Game 5 then let the chips fall where they may," said Cone.

"At least we got one and let's see if we can get another," added the 19-time champion coach, adding his team hasn't achieved anything yet other than live to fight another day.

"We're still down 1-2," Cone pointed out. "Coming from a loss, coming from a win it's still the same thing. We played better tonight and we hope it can carry over, but we can't look beyond Game 4. Our battlecry when down 2-0, 'Let's get this to a Game 5.' We got another game ahead of us."

Brownlee playing his usual all-around game and translating it into a personal series-high 31 points on top of 11 rebounds, four blocks and three steals in just 33 minutes also pointed Ginebra to its breakthrough win.

Scottie Thompson, Japeth Aguilar, Sol Mercado and Joe Devance scoring at least 10 points each also boosted the Kings to a fast start and a sustained run that netted them as much as a 32-point 125-93 lead.

In stark contrast to Ginebra's 45 percent field goal clip in 100-94 and 103-107 losses in the first two games, it went 47-for-87, or 54 percent, from the field in Game 3, including 10-for-26 from beyond the arc.

"It helps a lot when you make shots," noted Cone, whose team also held TNT to a 42-for-90 shooting.

"We made shots today. When we make shots our offense is a lot different. It kind of spills over to our defense. If we make shots like that we're much tougher to defend."

The big turnaround is something Cone credits to his team's more focused mind-set.

"We played the way we envisioned a lot better today than we had over the first two games," stated Cone. "I think a lot of that might be in being the No. 1 seed. The burden of being the No. 1 seed, the pressure that goes along with being the No. 1 seed, the expectations are too high for us.

"I think today we kind of handled that mentality after losing the first two games, and that helped us. Hopefully, that will carry on."