LA says itâs force vs force in Game 5
Ginebra San Miguel’s LA Tenorio and Meralco’s Chris Newsome.
LA says it’s force vs force in Game 5
Joaquin Henson (The Philippine Star) - January 17, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Barangay Ginebra is a win away from clinching the PBA Governors’ Cup championship and the closer could come in Game 5 of the best-of-7 finals at the MOA Arena tonight. But guard LA Tenorio isn’t counting Ginebra’s chickens before they’re hatched. Meralco survived two do-or-die games against TNT in the semis so the Bolts are tough and resilient.

“We’ll definitely go for the win,” said Tenorio. “But we have to be wary of Meralco. We know they’ll really come out hard. Coach Tim (Cone) told us we have to get it because Meralco won’t give it to us easily. We have to meet force with force. Closing out the series is the most difficult so we have to be more focused and ready.”

Tenorio, who’s averaging 10.8 points in the finals, said this title means a lot because it’s for Stanley Pringle and Justin Brownlee. “We want to win this for Stanley and Justin,” he said. “It’s Stanley’s first finals and Justin didn’t win the Best Import award.” Since breaking into the PBA in 2014-15, Pringle had never played in the finals until this conference. Pringle joined Ginebra six games into the previous Commissioner’s Cup. Brownlee has been denied the Best Import award thrice by Meralco’s Allen Durham in the three Governors’ Cup finals they’ve faced off. Last Wednesday, Durham made it three in a row over Brownlee as he was named Best Import for the ongoing conference.

Ginebra center Greg Slaughter said winning the championship will be special. “It always means a lot to us because we really owe it to our fans,” he said. “It will also be special because it will be Stanley’s first.”

Slaughter said despite a 3-1 lead in the finals, Ginebra won’t ease up the pressure. “Our approach to every game has been a do-or-die attitude,” he said. “Meralco pushed us to seven games the last time (2017 Governors Cup finals) and also showed they can beat us twice in a row (in the 2017 finals, the Bolts beat Ginebra back-to-back in Games 3 and 4). We have to go all out in Game 5 if we want to win.”

Slaughter said Cone never fails to remind the team to stay focused. “Coach Tim shared a story with us about how he lost a 3-1 lead to coach Ryan Gregorio’s Purefoods,” he said. “Coach Tim also has a quote not only for this finals but from the first moments he coached me and that’s ‘as soon as you think the game’s easy, it gets hard in a hurry.’ We understand winning a championship takes no less than 110 percent effort.”

Cone’s loss to Purefoods was when he was with Alaska in the 2005-06 Philippine Cup semifinals. Alaska was up, 3-1, in the best-of-7 series then Purefoods roared back to win three in a row, 85-74, 99-96 and 90-89 to clinch. Purefoods went on to capture the title, 4-2 over Red Bull in the finals.

Slaughter said on offense, it hasn’t been too difficult for him in this finals. “With our acquisition of Stanley and players like Scottie (Thompson) and Japeth (Aguilar) getting better every year, our offense has so many options,” he said. “Especially with an import like Justin, our offense will always be on a championship level. Personally, it’s been the defense I’ve really been focusing on.”

Ginebra’s defense has gone several notches higher in the finals. Before the title series, Ginebra held opponents to an average of 99.4 points and 44.7 field goal percentage. In the finals, Meralco was limited to an average of 81 points and 40.1 field goal percentage in Ginebra’s three wins. In Meralco’s 104-102 win in Game 2, the Bolts hit 16-of-38 triples but in their three losses, they’ve averaged only 5.3 makes from deep.

Four Meralco players aren’t knocking down threes in the finals as consistently as they did before. Bong Quinto shot 48.8 percent entering the finals but in the title playoffs, it’s down to 18.2. Allein Maliksi is 0-of-12 from downtown in the finals and Durham’s clip has dropped from 38.8 to 26.3.

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