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PBA: Ginebra, Meralco break deadlock

Game Today
(Smart Araneta Coliseum)
7 p.m. – Ginebra vs Meralco
(Game 3)

It’s back to square one in the chess match between the two coaches, although Barangay Ginebra San Miguel coach Tim Cone probably holds the white pieces going to Game 3 today.

Cone won’t hear of it, though.

Despite their win to tie the PBA Governors’ Cup Finals at 1-1, Cone said there’s no guarantee it would favor them tonight at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

But won’t it?

That is the big question as Ginebra and Meralco return to the Big Dome after splitting the first two games and enjoying a two-day break.

Game time is at 7 p.m.

“It’s back at square one,” said Cone. “We were unfortunate to lose Game 1 but in many ways, we were lucky to win Game 2.”

“Now the winner of Game 3 will be in a position to dictate the rest of the season. That makes Game 3 very crucial to both teams,” added Cone.

Meralco won the opener in overtime, 114-109, but Ginebra rebounded with its own gutsy performance in a thrilling 82-79 victory behind the solid performance of import Justin Brownlee, who struggled in the first game with 17 points but exploded for 32 points and had 12 rebounds the next time out.

Sol Mercado also came through with endgame heroics as he pulled down a huge offensive rebound and scored on a putback that gave Ginebra the lead for good.

Meralco had the rebounding edge in the inaugural, 52-50, but Ginebra took the succeeding encounter, 49-45, with 15 coming from the offensive end that gave the Kings 21 second chance points.

According to Meralco coach Norman Black, that would be their focus on the defensive end come Game 3.

“I told my players (that) it’s difficult to win a game like this if you don’t rebound the basketball, and we got beaten on the boards badly in the first half,” said Black after Game 2.

“We actually lost the game on an offensive rebound by Sol Mercado,” said Black after the Ginebra guard, who gives up at least four inches to Meralco import Allen Durham and forward Reynel Hugnatan, beat both Bolts player in crashing the board.

“That’s the number one thing we have to address in practice. Certainly, we wouldn’t be doing rebounding drills, but mentally, we just have to focus on the fact that we got killed on the board tonight,” the Grand Slam coach pointed out, “Black said.

“They got a lot of offensive rebounds and we paid the price for it.”

Also, Durham has to regain his form after struggling against Mercado’s defense. After scoring 46 points in Game 1, the Best Import recipient was limited to just 22 points in Game 2.

Durham shot 16-of-25 from the field in Game 1, missing just one out of six attempts from three-point territory against the defense of Brownlee and 6-foot-9 Japeth Aguilar; he was 10-of-24 against the shorter Mercado.

“He’s a tough defender,” said Durham of Mercado. “It caught me off-guard, that adjustment they did.”

LA Tenorio, the veteran Ginebra guard said that it’s important for them to start strong similar to what they’ve done in the first two games. He said, however, that it’s more crucial for them to keep their energy high in the endgame.

“Sa two games parehas kaming lumamang, pero sa Game 1 hindi namin na-sustain; sa Game 2 na-survive namin yung balik nila,” said Tenorio, who scored a career-best 36 points in the series opener.

“So I think dapat mas maging consistent kami sa endgame. Kung maganda ang start, maganda din dapat yung tapos naming.” added Tenorio, who expects teammates Scottie Thompson, Joe Devance and Mark Caguioa to also step up.