BARANGAY Ginebra escaped blushes versus an import-less but fierce-fighting TNT side.
And coming with the Kings' tough escape act was an outright passage into the PBA Commissioner's Cup playoffs.
"You named me as the winning coach, but I felt I was totally outcoached. They lost Jayson (Castro), they lost
Mikey (Williams) a bit and they played with no import. They were dropping like flies but they kept coming at us. It was a well-coached game and I scrambled to keep up," said coach Tim Cone, relieved they were able to get past the Tropang Giga and thus stayed in strong contention for a Top 2 finish.
Cone threw much superlatives on the coaching job put up by his TNT counterpart Chot Reyes, and said "we're lucky to walk out with the win."
But a win is a win, and this one allowed the Kings to chalk up a first-ever five-game run under coach Cone.
More importantly, their 7-2 record guaranteed Cone and his troops a playoff berth along with early qualifiers
Bay Area (9-2), Magnolia (8-2) and Converge (8-3).
The Kings try to sustain their charge in pursuit of a Top 2 finish and a twice-to-beat incentive in the quarterfinals as they tangle with NLEX, NorthPort and Converge in their last three assignments.
Meanwhile, the Tropang Giga dropped to ninth place with their sixth loss in 10 outings.
Worse, they may need to fly in an import sub to Cameron Oliver who suffered a knee sprain.
Sans an import and with Castro sidelined by an ankle sprain in the third, the Tropang Giga nonetheless put up a tough fight only to yield in the end on crucial errors.
The Tropang Giga even seized the lead midway through the fourth on Mikey Williams' sniping from the arc and tied the game for the last time at 81-all on Calvin Oftana's own trey entering the last two minutes.
But they threw the ball away in their last two possessions, allowing the Kings to pull through, with Justin Brownlee preserving his all-around brilliance marked by 21 points, nine rebounds and eight assists.
Stanley Pringle and Scottie Thompson chipped in 12 and 10 points, respectively, while Japeth Aguilar contributed 12 rebounds plus nine markers.
TNT battled hard largely behind Mikey Williams' 20 points, RR Pogoy's 18, Poy Erram's 16 and Glenn Khobuntin's 10.
Castro made seven markers, four rebounds and three assists before limping off the floo with a sprained ankle. (SB)
Ginebra 89 - Brownlee 21, Pringle 12, Thompson 10, J.Aguilar 9, Tenorio 8, Mariano 8, Malonzo 8, Standhardinger 8, Gray 5, Pinto 0.
TNT 85 - M.Williams 20, Pogoy 18, Erram 16, Khobuntin 10, Castro 7, Oftana 6, K.Williams 4, Tungcab 2, Heruela 2, Ganuelas-Rosser 0, Soyud 0.
Quarters: 34-22, 53-45, 68-71, 89-85