Will red-hot Gin Kings finally break through?
Barangay Ginebra coach Tim Cone
Will red-hot Gin Kings finally break through?
Nelson Beltran (The Philippine Star) - October 18, 2016 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Reaching the threshold of a PBA championship, Barangay Ginebra coach Tim Cone seems to be wary of the Gin Kings’ staying power than Meralco’s expected power surge.

There were bitter lessons in the past where the Gin Kings had blown big leads in games they have lost and  Cone fears they may suffer the same fate after winning Game Five of the PBA Governors Cup Finals, 92-81, to seize a 3-2 series lead before more than 22,000 fans at the Smart Araneta Coliseum Sunday night.

Cone and his Gin Kings take their first of two cracks at the PBA Governors Cup championship in Game Six at 7 p.m. tomorrow, also at the Big Dome.

But with the lead comes the big challenge.

“It’s the first time we’re in the lead in the series. But we’re not good at holding leads in the whole series,” said Cone, recalling the 16-point spreads they squandered in yielding Game One (114-109 in overtime) and Game Three (107-103).

The Kings also blew huge margins in Games Two and Four, teetering on the brink each time before surviving to secure the win. They blew a 15-point lead in a flash in Game Two and even had a 32-point slide in Game Four, losing a 16-point margin then falling behind by 16.

But Justin Brownlee and his teammates finally pulled a wire-to-wire triumph in the pivotal Game 5 to gain a virtual twice-to-beat edge. But they still saw a 21-point spread cut down to five entering the final minute of the contest.

Losing the initiative or the lead seems to be the only thing constant with the Kings.

Versus the San Miguel Beermen in their best-of-five semis, the Kings took the 2-1 lead but had to go through the full distance to eventually make the finals.

“That reminds us that we’re up but we haven’t closed anything,” said Cone. “It’s a lot better than losing (Game Five) but it’s not a guarantee of anything.”

If anything, Cone said what they have is a “slight lead.”

“We won back-to-back games but they’re capable of winning back-to-back, too,” said Cone, remembering Meralco’s three-game romp from a Game One loss in their semis showdown with TNT KaTropa.

Cone braces for a tough, tough fight from the Bolts in Game Six.

“There is no doubt that Meralco is a great team. Their backs are to the wall. They’re a great team with their backs to the wall. It’s one thing if you’re playing a lesser team and they had their backs to the wall, you can kind of overcome them,” said Cone.

“But a great team with their backs to the wall – it’s really hard to beat,” he said. “They’re going to  be totally focused and concentrated, and we’re just going see if we can meet their intensity.”

But what’s Ginebra’s winning percentage with the 3-2 lead in a best-of-seven series?

PBA stats chief Fidel Mangonon said the Kings are 3-1 in finals and 5-1 overall in all best-of-seven series (semis and finals) they have played. 

Or in four times that the Kings enjoyed the 3-2 lead, thrice they went all the way to bagging the championship.

NOTES: Beau Belga stuck it out with Rain or Shine, signing a maximum three-year contract-extension deal worth P16.2 million yesterday. It’s the same package dangled to Paul Lee before the ROS management got a trade deal offer involving the 5-foot-10 combo guard and longtime Star main man James Yap.


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