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Sports

Period of adjustment

SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson - The Philippine Star

Barangay Ginebra San Miguel stumbled to a slow start in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup, losing a 22-point decision to Rain or Shine in its opener then after back-to-back wins, bowed to Phoenix. Last Friday, Ginebra raised its record to 4-2 as coach Tim Cone’s squad has methodically gotten back on track after struggling through a period of adjustment.

Ginebra didn’t make the semis in the previous conference and was eliminated by Meralco, 2-1, in the quarters. The hiccup triggered some tweaks in Cone’s lineup which was bolstered by the addition of Jamie Malonzo, Jeremiah Gray and Von Pessumal during the break. Justin Brownlee’s return for a ninth conference was another boost. Still, it took some time to realign the troops.

Before Friday’s 21-point romp over Terrafirma, four of Cone’s reliable veterans averaged lower numbers from the recent Philippine Cup and Malonzo was suddenly the team’s top local scorer. Japeth Aguilar’s scoring clip went from 17.1 to 8.6, Scottie Thompson from 16.7 to 9.8, Christian Standhardinger from 14.2 to 10.0 and LA Tenorio from 9.6 to 4.0. The drops are expected in an import conference but there were other statistical bumps like Standhardinger shooting 26.7 percent from the line, LA hitting 10.5 percent from beyond the arc and Aguilar not taking a single free throw.

Ironically, the players’ versatility became a problem. Cone had to figure out what combinations were optimal since Malonzo, Brownlee, Thompson, Aguilar and Standhardinger play multiple positions. Brownlee is a natural three and there’s no pressing need for him to play four or five because Aguilar and Standhardinger can fit the bill. Malonzo is another interchangeable piece. Rotations can be a puzzle if there is too much talent on the table. But it’s a problem any coach would relish as eventually, things fall into place and when that happens, expect smooth sailing.

Cone took the opportunity to experiment with different combinations against Terrafirma but kept Brownlee in the thick of every mix. He wanted to make sure any four on the floor would be comfortable with Brownlee. Cone also gave extensive minutes to Gray who played in only his fourth game as a PBA rookie. Gray logged 21:13 minutes, one of seven players with at least 20, and delivered a career-high 10 points on 5-of-11 from the floor. Raymond Aguilar and Pessumal got some burn, too. In the end, six players wound up scoring in double figures and would’ve been seven if Stanley Pringle didn’t miss one of four free throws. Cone got the chance to test Ginebra’s depth with a longer than usual rotation and the NSD team clobbered Terrafirma, 111-90, even as the Dyip had less miscues, 11-20, and more turnover points, 26-16. Ginebra shot 54.8 percent from the floor and held Terrafirma to only 37.5. Brownlee registered his first triple-double of the conference with 23 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists – a testament to his all-around ability to dominate a game. Ginebra’s size was evident in outrebounding Terrafirma, 59-40, and scoring more points in the paint, 58-32. Now, Ginebra will be more than ready to take on San Miguel Beer in its next assignment on Nov. 6.

PBA COMMISSIONER’S CUP

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