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Sports

TNT braces for Ginebra comeback

Olmin Leyba - The Philippine Star
TNT braces for Ginebra comeback
LA Tenorio of Ginebra avoids the blocking arms of Terrence Jones of TNT in the KaTropa’s close win last Friday.
Joey Mendoza

MANILA, Philippines — Fully recognizing the championship pedigree of their opponents in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup semifinals, the TNT KaTropa are far from being comfortable holding a 1-0 headstart against Barangay Ginebra.

In fact, TNT consultant Mark Dickel is bracing for a protracted war with the defending champion Gin Kings in the best-of-five affair.

“This is going to be a long series. They (Ginebra) know what they’re doing; they’ve been winning for a long time whereas we’ve got a lot of players who are new to this level and haven’t won before,” said Dickel after the KaTropa’s thrilling 95-92 verdict in Friday’s Final Four opener.

“We do have some experience, with veteran players like Terrence Jones and Jayson Castro, but it’s just that they (Ginebra) are proven on their side of it so we got a lot to prove, man. And even if we get the next one, it doesn’t mean anything, you got to win three games,” he added.

TNT played catchup most of the way in Game 1, turning things around with a strong finish anchored on Jones’ clutch plays and tough defense on Ginebra counterpart Justin Brownlee in the last six minutes to steal the three-point victory.

The KaTropa expect tonight’s Game 2 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum to be as tough, and Dickel pins his hopes again on their defense. But they have to do so without defensive specialist Anthony Semerad, who exited with a shoulder injury last time. 

“We won the (opening) game with our defense so we got to maintain that every game to give us a chance,” he said, upbeat that others will step up in Semerad’s absence. “Huge loss (Semerad) but I have a lot of confidence in the others.”

Ginebra coach Tim Cone banks on the squad’s never-say-die attitude as they seek to make it even and avoid a 0-2 hole.

“It’s not a one-game series. It’s a five-game series. We’re down but this is not foreign territory for us,” said Cone, referring to the crowd darling’s record of coming back from series deficits. 

But to do so, he said the Gin Kings need to perform far better.

“We didn’t play our best game and for us to beat a team like TNT, we need to be at our sharpest. Too many breakdowns, too many key turnovers, we need to clean things up,” said Cone.

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