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PBA: Kings near title

Scottie Thompson of Barangay Ginebra uses teammate Justin Brownlee's screen to get past Alex Cabagnot of San Miguel. (Kevin Tristan Espiritu)

Scottie Thompson of Barangay Ginebra uses teammate Justin Brownlee’s screen to get past Alex Cabagnot of San Miguel. (Kevin Tristan Espiritu)

by Jonas Terrado

Game Wednesday (Mall of Asia Arena)
7 p.m. – Ginebra vs San Miguel
(Ginebra leads series 3-2)

Scottie Thompson banked in the go-ahead basket with 36.0 seconds left and Barangay Ginebra San Miguel escaped with an 87-83 win over defending champion San Miguel Beer to gain a 3-2 lead in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup Finals in front of almost 17,000 fans at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

The capacity crowd were finally treated to a thrilling encounter after lopsided margins in the previous four games, with Thompson redeeming himself from a subpar performance for most of the series and getting dunked on by June Mar Fajardo with 3:17 left that put the Beermen in front 87-83.

Thompson got a measure of revenge on Fajardo when his bank shot off the outstretched arms of Fajardo from the baseline after Justin Brownlee avoided a potential traveling infraction in traffic gave Ginebra an 84-83 lead.

“I think it was a lucky shot for me,” said Thompson, who finished with 20 points, 11 rebounds and three assists. “But we really needed this game dahil gusto naming manalo.”

Brownlee and Greg Slaughter joined hands on the next play to block San Miguel import Renaldo Balkman, allowing Thompson to convert an easy layup in transition to make it a three-point advantage, 86-83, 23 seconds left before Ginebra had to survive a last-ditch attempt by the Beermen to tie the game.

The Beermen missed three straight threes after the timeout, including an attempt by Ginebra villain Arwind Santos from way out. Chris Ross retrieved Santos and went for a desperate three from the left elbow, only to step on the line with 2.5 seconds remaining.

LA Tenorio split his two charities to seal the deal, putting Ginebra on the cusp of capturing its third title in the six conferences. The Kings can close it out Wednesday night at the Mall of Asia Arena.

“I guess everybody got what they wanted,” Ginebra coach Tim Cone, feeling under the weather due to food poisoning, said referring to the average winning margin of 30.3 points entering the fifth game that turned out to be a cardiac affair.

Justin Brownlee went 8-of-21 from the field to finish with 18 points while LA Tenorio and Greg Slaughter added 15 and 13 points, respectively, for the Kings.

San Miguel couldn’t finish it off after Fajardo’s slam, failing to score the rest of the way.

Joe Devance converted a basket and Thompson made two foul shots after being fouled by Fajardo to put Ginebra within one, 83-82, under a minute left.

Fajardo was fouled during the next play but the Best Player of the Conference missed both free throws and Santos stepped on the line after an offensive rebound, setting the stage for Thompson’s heroics.

Balkman finished with 34 points and 20 rebounds but was visibly frustrated late in the contest over what he felt were non-calls in Ginebra’s favor.

The scores:
GINEBRA 87 – Thompson 20, Brownlee 18, Tenorio 15, Slaughter 13, Devance 8, J. Aguilar 8, Chan 5, Mercado 0, Cruz 0, Ferrer 0.

SAN MIGUEL 83 – Balkman 34, Fajardo 23, Lassiter 13, Cabagnot 5, Ross 3, Standhardinger 3, Santos 2, Nabong 0.

Quarters: 24-26; 40-40; 66-66; 87-83.