BASED on his long and storied coaching career, Tim Cone is certain of one thing.
“The hardest game to win in a series is the closeout game,” he said.
“I find oftentimes Game Fours are harder to win than Game Fives in a five-game series,” added the 22-time champion who has been in countless playoff battles since his PBA coaching career started with Alaska in 1989.
Cone came up with the observation after Ginebra’s 91-84 victory over Meralco last Sunday that pushed the Kings on the verge of wrapping up their PBA Philippine Cup best-of-five semifinals series at the Smart 5G-powered AUF Sports Arena in Angeles City.
The win was a big bounce-back for Ginebra from a 77-95 loss in Game 2 just two days before and gave momentum back to the Kings for the critical Game 4 tomorrow.
Still, Cone remains wary, noting how the Bolts have initially shown their own resilience by bouncing back from a 79-96 drubbing in the series opener.
“It’s gonna be really hard to close them out,” Cone said.
“They’ve got a great coach over there who’s also been to this kind of wars and been to this situation,” added Cone. “And he’s got a young hungry core that’s listening to him and playing for him.”
Meralco could also—and should—pick up from where it left off in Game 3.
No thanks to a flat start the Bolts trailed by as much as 12-37 but came charging back and drew within just six points in the dying seconds.
Cone now has to deal with both the expected power surge from Meralco and the enemy that comes from within.
“It’s parang… For us, we have a cushion—may cushion, you know — and we can… Parang, we can be a little bit kampante. And that’s what we have to fight as coaches: to make sure that our guys don’t fall into that trap,” he said.
“But it’s human nature. Trap. And it’s very, very difficult not to fall into it,” added Cone.
“That’s why closeout games are always so hard. The other group is always so desperate and it’s hard to meet their intensity.”