Tim Cone not worried about errors
SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - January 18, 2019 - 12:00am

Barangay Ginebra coach Tim Cone isn’t too worried about how many turnovers his team commits in a PBA game because under his system, it’s impossible not to lapse into errors. But of course, it’s not an excuse to pile up the miscues.

Last season, Ginebra ranked No. 2 in most turnovers with 18.6 an outing. The compensating factor was the team led the league in assists (26.4) and because of unselfish passing, topped the field goal percentage ladder (45.8 percent). In last Sunday’s PBA 44th season opening, Ginebra had 23 turnovers in grinding out a 90-79 decision over TNT at the Philippine Arena in Bulacan. TNT finished with four less errors but Ginebra dished out nine more assists, 26-17. The numbers translated into a higher field goal percentage for Ginebra, 46.5 percent to TNT’s 32.6.

Cone said turnovers are a concern but they’re not a focus. “We encourage ball movement and pretty much lead the league in assists most every conference so we expect turnovers,” he said. “Sometimes, we cross the line and over-pass but we’d rather do that than the opposite. We want to keep our guys passing the ball. Certainly, we would like to make less turnovers but we just put the emphasis on solid passing, not great passing, rather than talk at length on preventing turnovers.”

It was evident in the game that Ginebra put a premium on unselfish play. Point guard L. A. Tenorio, for example, took only three shots from the field but had seven dimes. There were instances where Tenorio could’ve taken an attempt but opted to release to a teammate in a better position to hit a higher percentage shot. Kevin Ferrer, Sol Mercado and Aljon Mariano had four assists each while Joe De Vance compiled three and Scottie Thompson, two. The main beneficiaries of the assists were Greg Slaughter and Japeth Aguilar who combined for 36 points. The Twin Towers were chiefly responsible for Ginebra’s edge in points in the paint, 48-34.

Cone started Slaughter and Aguilar together to establish Ginebra’s interior dominance from the onset. The drawback is since they play together, they also get tired together, taking their rest on the bench at the same time. It was when they were on the bench when TNT staged a comeback in the second quarter. Ginebra is clearly at a disadvantage if both are off the court. In the fourth period, Cone alternated Slaughter and Aguilar to make sure Ginebra had at least one rim protector and inside threat on the floor. The plan worked as Slaughter, subbing for Aguilar, hit eight of his 15 points in the payoff quarter. 

“Our goal is for Japeth and Greg to play together as much as their minutes can handle,” explained Cone. “Japeth’s versatility is a perfect complement to Greg and we want to be able to use that. We have the luxury of rotating Joe into the mix which gives the team a different look. But ultimately, those Twin Towers are the strength of our team and we need them to develop their chemistry playing together.”

That chemistry was a huge factor in bailing Ginebra out of trouble when TNT trimmed an 18-point deficit to only two in the third period. Although TNT came close to overhauling Ginebra’s lead, the KaTropa couldn’t get over the hump and never led the entire contest. Cone said he expected TNT’s comeback.  “Good teams get back into games and they’re a good, well-coached team so we expected them to make runs at us,” said Cone.

TNT’s active consultant Mark Dickel worked under a handicap as Troy Rosario and Yousef Taha were sidelined with injuries. With Ginebra’s size congesting the lane, TNT tried to open up things with outside shots. But the shooters were mainly off-target as R. R. Pogoy went 1-of-9 and Jericho Cruz, 1-of-8 from beyond the arc. Brian Heruela and Mike Miranda were a combined 0-of-5 from deep.

Familiarity was on Ginebra’s side as Cone retained every player from last conference except for Jett Manuel who retired. In contrast, TNT traded away Terrence Romeo, Alfrancis Tamsi and Papot Paredes and took in Miranda, Heruela and Dave Semerad. Romeo’s departure required a major adjustment in TNT’s scheme of things. Yet, if only TNT’s riflemen were more accurate, the game could’ve gone either way. The positives that TNT took from the game were the team had four less turnovers, 18 more field goal attempts, eight more steals and seven more turnover points. 

The only rookie who played in the game was Ginebra’s Teytey Teodoro who fired four points in 7:29 minutes, showing a lot of confidence in his first stint as a pro. Both teams are primed to get better as the conference moves forward. Ginebra will eventually reactivate Arthur de la Cruz and Jeff Chan who were both unavailable for the TNT game, recovering from injuries. Another player Julian Sargent joined Ginebra last conference but has yet to see action for the Barangay. TNT will get a major boost when Rosario returns and Taha is cleared to play.  

Ginebra’s next game is against defending Philippine Cup champion San Miguel Beer at the Smart Araneta Coliseum on Sunday while TNT is back on the floor against Phoenix at the Ynares Center, Antipolo, tomorrow.

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