Gin Kings won’t risk a Game Seven
Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - October 24, 2017 - 4:00pm

MANILA, Philippines — Barangay Ginebra coach Tim Cone isn’t taking the chance of letting Game 6 slip away and leaving the door open for Meralco to grab the PBA Governors Cup title in a Game 7 that will be held on Friday if the Bolts extend the best-of-7 Finals at the Philippine Arena tonight. 

Meralco is in a do-or-die situation in Game 6. A loss will mean Ginebra retaining the crown as it now leads the series, 3-2. Meralco must win two in a row to clinch the series that the Bolts lost to Ginebra in the same conference last season while the Barangay has two chances to win one for the throne. If the battlecry for Ginebra is retention, the motivation for Meralco is redemption.

“We don’t want a Game 7,” said Cone after Ginebra took Game 5, 85-74, before a crowd of 36,445 – the second largest attendance in the PBA’s 42-year history – at the Bulacan venue last Sunday. “We’re going all out to win it in Game 6.”

To move into position to close, Cone said he treated Sunday’s encounter like a do-or-die. “LA (Tenorio) and Justin (Brownlee) played the entire second half,” said Cone. “I didn’t want to risk anything. Sol (Mercado) couldn’t play so LA had to do extended minutes. We wanted to win Game 5 badly because the series was down to a best-of-three and winning the first game in a best-of-three gives you a tremendous advantage.”

Game 5 was decided in the fourth quarter like the three previous contests. Ginebra opened an 18-point lead in the second period but Meralco stormed back to seize the lead, 60-58, with 3:06 left in the third. That prompted Cone to call a timeout and slam his portable chair in front of the bench to shake up his team. Cone said he didn’t direct his displeasure at any one player. “It was meant for the whole team,” he said. “We were getting outhustled, outworked. That was just me venting.” After the timeout, Ginebra went on an 8-2 tear to end the quarter.

But Meralco wasn’t done. Chris Newsome connected to narrow the gap to four, 74-70 then Ginebra lowered the boom with a 7-0 blast to lead, 81-70, with 4:31 to go and settled the issue. Tenorio, who played a series-high 40:30 minutes, bounced back from a scoreless nightmare in Game 4 to a dream-like 17 points with six rebounds and four assists. Brownlee, who logged 46:04 minutes, delivered 20 points, 12 boards and five dimes. He outscored Meralco counterpart Allen Durham, 7-4, in the payoff quarter.

In a master stroke to throw off Meralco, Cone started Greg Slaughter and Kevin Ferrer for the first time in the Finals, leaving Japeth Aguilar and Joe DeVance to come off the bench. The tweak worked like a charm. Slaughter took Best Player honors with 17 points, including eight in the fourth period, and 16 rebounds. Ferrer was outstanding in defense and compiled two points, six rebounds, two assists, two steals and a blocked shot in a series-high 32:57 minutes. 

Slaughter was the focal point of Ginebra’s offense and defense in Game 5. He said his first start in the Finals wasn’t a big deal. “It’s the same focus whether I start or not,” said Slaughter who’s playing in his first-ever Finals. “Nothing different. All I set out to do was to attack aggressively inside. It didn’t matter who was defending, Durham or somebody else. I treated it like a do-or-die. We’re definitely going for the finish in Game 6.”

Cone said Game 5 was a grind-it-out type of battle. “It was a low-scoring game,” said Cone. “Meralco’s tough. They like it grind it out like we had to in Game 5. Durham’s a beast out there and Greg had to be aggressive against him. We couldn’t afford to lose.” Cone said he gambled on playing Tenorio and Brownlee extended minutes because there was time to recover from the two-day break before Game 6. “We’ll be ready to end it in Game 6,” he said. His advice to Slaughter in matching up with Durham is to get the proper timing to seal.

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