By JONAS TERRADO
NLEX coach Yeng Guiao concedes that the complexion of its PBA Governors’ Cup semifinal series with Barangay Ginebra San Miguel has not changed even after avoiding a sweep in the most unusual circumstance.
The Road Warriors extended the best-of-five affair to a fourth game after escaping past the Gin Kings, 86-85, Sunday, March 27 after a pair of blunders by LA Tenorio in the dying moments.
Guiao, who later said that his team not only “earned this win” but also “earned our breaks,” said preventing an early vacation via a sweep was the only thing NLEX tried to achieve going into Game 3 held before a crowd of 13,000 at the Mall of Asia Arena.
“Sabi ko lang sa mga players namin, ‘Let’s just save ourselves the embarrassment of being swept. Siguro isang panalo, hindi na tayo masyadong nakakahiya,’” Guiao said.
“Pero sabi ko rin, ‘Kapag nanalo tayo, baka mamaya mag-iba yung complexion ng series, magka-chance ulit tayo.’ And they proved that we can beat Ginebra,” he added.
NLEX stayed alive after taking advantage of Tenorio’s initial miscue which was a cross court pass which import Cam Clark intercepted and resulted in a three-point play off a foul by Ginebra counterpart Justin Brownlee.
Tenorio would again commit a blunder as he went for a layup instead of a triple, thinking that the Road Warriors were ahead by two with 7.3 seconds left.
But that was just part of how the Road Warriors won, as they were able to stay composed even after losing another lead just like in the losses in Game 1 and 2.
Both games saw NLEX lead by double figures in the first half, only for Ginebra to mount a comeback and eventually take a 2-0 lead.
This time, NLEX didn’t buckle even after an eight-point lead in the fourth and a gap of three with under a minute to go disappeared.
“The difference is we won,” said Guiao. “Yun ang pinakamalaking difference sa dalawang laro namin.
“We took the lead early, we lost the lead, and we could not sustain our momentum. We were able to hold on until the end game.”
One win, however, can’t guarantee a momentum-shift, yet Guiao expressed some belief that forcing a Game 4 set Wednesday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum may give NLEX a bit of advantage.
Guiao cited the big minutes the Gin Kings core of Brownlee, Tenorio, Christian Standhardinger and Scottie Thompson, among others, against his deep rotation as the reason for the veteran tactician to feel a bit of confidence.
“Lamang pa rin naman sila e,” he said. “Next game, of course, they win the next game, they’re in the finals. But we will try to prolong the series.
“Sa amin kasi, the longer the series, I think the better for us. Their key players are playing heavy minutes, mag-aaverage yan ng 40 minutes a game. So kami, mas malalim rotation namin, so we can last a longer series.
“The longer the series takes, the better it is for us.”