DOWN one game and unsure how its adjustments would work out, Meralco faces another major concern in its match-up tonight with Ginebra.
Game 2 of their PBA Governors Cup championship duel is set at the Quezon Convention Center in Lucena and Bolts coach Norman Black knows it would be like playing in their opponent’s homecourt since the venue is sure to be filled mostly by pro-Kings fans.
“That’s always an advantage for Ginebra, wherever you go in the country,” Black pointed out after Meralco’s 87-91 loss in the best-of-seven series opener last Tuesday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
“The advantage of being here at the Araneta Coliseum for us is the fact that we can probably get four or five thousand fans in the gym, even though they’ll have the other 12, 13,” said Black with a grin.
“But when we go to the province, that’s a little bit more difficult. It’s hard to bring your fans in from Metro Manila. So, we’ll see.”
One thing is for sure: Meralco will go all-out notwithstanding the generally hostile environment in a gym where it totes a 0-2 record.
“We have to win the game,” Black stressed. “It’s a must-win situation for us, so it doesn’t really matter where we play.”
The Game 1 win was made possible by Ginebra scoring the game’s last five points in the last 23 seconds. Of course, there was that Japeth Aguilar block on a driving Allen Durham that preserved the Kings’ 89-87 edge.
Ginebra coach Tim Cone was pleased with the win but maintained his stance that the duel will be a scratch-and-claw series.
“I think it’s gonna be a ping-pong affair, it’s gonna go back and forth,” said Cone.
“One game allows you to believe in your gameplan and so you’re not gonna make too big an adjustment to it. When you lose Game 1 you kinda re-think your gameplan and so you’re gonna have to make adjustments. So the onus is on the other team, that’s why you want to win Game 1. And if you can find a way to win Game 2, after winning Game 1, now you have a two-game lead, 2-0, and that’s a big lead in a best-of-seven series,” he added.
“That’s why Game 1 is so important, in my mind. That’s why you always try to win this first game. You get ahead of the eight-ball. But like I’ve said, this game is prototypical of what every game is gonna be like.
“It might not be a one-point game or a two-point game but a five- or a six-point game. But the tempo and the rhythm and the struggle in every possession, I think, is gonna be the same all throughout this series.”
In the opener, Meralco shot only 38 percent from the floor to Ginebra’s 44 percent, making it imperative for the Bolts to collectively hone their shooting touch.
Meralco also lost in bench points 6-11, after the Bolts’ relievers shot a combined 2-for-13, putting to waste Durham’s 25 points, 18 rebounds and 10 assists as well as Chris Newsome’s 24 points and eight boards and Raymond Almazan’s 20 and 13.
“We just have to get a little more production from the bench,” said Black.
“That’s something we have to fix going to Game 2 because I have to take my starters out for a little while to give them some rest so we want these men to come in and maintain whatever advantage we have or increase that advantage if possible. Our bench has to play a bit better.”
Cone has the same wish even though Justin Brownlee notched 38 points and 16 rebounds to lead Ginebra, which also drew at least 10 points each from Aguilar, LA Tenorio and Stanley Pringle.
“Not everybody played great on our team. We played some guys who struggled tonight,” said Cone. “Again, that’s why you have five guys out there on the floor. Not everybody’s gonna have a great night. If you do, then it’s gonna end up as a 30-point win.”