AN EMPHATIC humiliation of Meralco does not give Ginebra coach Tim Cone much comfort.
Especially because Cone insisted that the Kings making short work of the Bolts tonight in their PBA Governors Cup championship duel should prove to be one herculean task at the Mall of Asia Arena.
“I would love it if it did, but no, I don’t think so,” Cone responded when asked if his team can close out the best-of-seven series that Ginebra leads 3-1 following a 94-72 rout of Meralco last Wednesday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
“I mean, we will try our best, obviously,” added Cone. “But, you know, this team has shown a lot of character in the past when we played them. We got up 2-0 on them and they came back and beat us two straight in one series. So we know they’re capable of coming back.”
Cone was referring to their 2017 finals in the same season-ending tourney, which the Kings won in the seventh and deciding game.
“It’ll be silly for us to say that we think it’s gonna be over,” Cone went on. “But it’s also silly for us to say if we don’t think we’re gonna try our best to make it over, to get it over, I should say.”
“Silly” is one word almost synonymous with how coach Norman Black described Meralco’s performance in Game 4, which saw the tea trail by as many as 27 points.
“For me, it’s an embarrassment to the PBA that we came out and didn’t give them a better fight. We got beat very, very badly for the second game in a row in the hustle stats, and we just have to do a much better job to represent the company and represent the league,” said Black. “With the effort we displayed tonight, we didn’t deserve to win this game.”
Allen Durham, recipient of his third Best Import award just before the game, was more blunt. “Everybody has to look in the mirror. Everybody. Tonight, everybody on the roster played like sh*t, we gotta get better,” he fumed. “Tonight was terrible, it’s embarrassing.”
Raymond Almazan should not be included in that list because he played through a torn meniscus on his left knee he suffered last Sunday and finished with 12 points on 5-of-14 shooting, along with nine rebounds and a block, to complement Durham’s 21 points, 27 rebounds and seven assists.
Actually, Almazan should have undergo surgery to repair his injury, but held that off in his desire to help his team for the rest of the series.
‘Tinanong ako ni coach kung gusto ko maglaro. Sabi ko kaya ko,” related Almazan. “Tapos uminom na lang akong pain killers. So, ‘yun, three times a day, ‘di ko siya masyadong maramdaman. Pero meron pa rin siyang kaunting kirot. Di ko sinasabing bayani ako, pero gusto ko talagang manalo. ‘Yun ‘yung way para makatulong ako sa team. And then ooperahan siya after ng series. Six weeks akong pahinga. Pero gusto kong tapusin ‘yung series.”
Should Meralco win and stay alive, the last two games of the series are set at the Philippine Arena and Cone doesn’t want that, which explains why he wants Ginebra to seal the deal tonight.
“You just can’t give them the momentum and the confidence that they’ll be searching for,” said Cone. “So we’re gonna have to go out and try to make a statement early in Game 5.”
Black said a key factor should be his side displaying the same amount of intensity and energy they showed in the first two games of the series, especially on making stops.
“If you ever analyze basketball, you can’t focus on little things if you can’t solve big things.
In other words, we can’t get back on defense. It’s hard to focus on pick-and-roll defense
and post defense when you just can’t get back on defense. It’s something we have not struggled with this entire conference, but we’re struggling with it right now in the last couple of games,” said Black.