Barangay Ginebra’s PBA season—and the Gin Kings’ reign as Governors’ Cup champions—was extended on Wednesday night after an authoritative 104-92 victory over powerhouse TNT in the first game of their quarterfinal series.
But the win did not put coach Tim Cone, after what he has seen for so long in this league, in a celebratory mood.
As soon as he faced reporters, the seasoned mentor underscored just how little they achieved in a game that looked so big that a mammoth crowd witnessed at Smart Araneta Coliseum in Cubao, Quezon City.
“I don’t want to make too big of a deal about this game,” he said on the heels of a steely Ginebra performance that dragged No. 3 seed TNT to a rubber match slated on Saturday also at the Big Dome.
“It’s just a game. One game. All we did was even-out the odds,” he said, referring to the twice-to-beat advantage the Tropang Giga took to this round.
“They (Tropang Giga) had overwhelmingly big odds coming into this series, and now we just kind of halved those odds,” Cone said.
Alaska also extended its farewell tour with a 93-79 win over NLEX also on Wednesday and taking their respective series against higher-ranked foes will also be the targets of San Miguel Beer and Phoenix when the playoffs resume on Friday.
The eighth-ranked Fuel Masters battle No. 1 Magnolia in the 6 p.m. game, just after the No. 6 Beermen tangle with third-ranked Meralco at 3 p.m. Both the Hotshots and the Bolts need to win just once to advance.
Ginebra actually had a lot of things going right that night. Not only were the Gin Kings unrelenting on defense, the crowd darlings also played with poise—two things that they haven’t been able to do with consistency this tournament.
But Cone knows all too well that the harder part has yet to come.
“The good news is we have a couple of days to recover. Bad news is they (Tropang Giga) have a couple days to look at the video and go over and see what adjustments we made and then make their own adjustments,” he said.
“That’s why twice-to-beat is so hard to overcome. You can always get the first one, but the second one is much, much tougher,” Cone added.
Justin Brownlee, the club’s resident import, said Ginebra has been fortunate to be on the rosier other side of a twice-to-beat setup in the Governors’ Cup. But it’s not like the team’s current predicament is absolutely new.
“My time here with Ginebra, I think we had maybe a few knockout games as far as like, Game 7s, Game 5s or Game 3s. But it’s [still] the same approach that we always have: Just playing one game at a time and not trying to look past this one game,” he told a few reporters on his way out of the venue.
The decider is set at 4 p.m. with the winner advancing to the Final Four, and Cone is hoping that maybe by then his crew can breathe a little easier after Saturday.
“I ran into the locker room myself and said, ‘Guys, no celebrating,’ before I walked in here [to the press room] because we haven’t achieved anything,” he said. “We haven’t done anything.
“All we did was just even the odds a little bit. Certainly not in our favor, but it’s now a little bit more even.”
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