By REYNALD MAGALLON
Barangay Ginebra and Bay Area return to action after a week-long rest to break a 1-1 deadlock in Game 3 of the best-of-7 2022 PBA Commissioner’s Cup Finals series at the Mall of Asia Arena on Wednesday, Jan. 4.
Recharged and recalibrated after the break and with the first two games ending up in stalemate, the Kings and the Dragons dispute the control of the series in the pivotal encounter at 5:45 p.m.
Momentum, however, is obviously on the side of Bay Area which, after leveling the series after a 99-82 victory in Game 2, had the chance to rest its tired legs especially with the short rotation so far of head coach Brian Goorjian.
Benefitting heavily to the break is import Andrew Nicholson who has been playing nothing but superb basketball for the Dragons throughout the playoffs even averaging 28.5 points and 13.5 rebounds in 42 minutes of play in the first two games of the Finals series.
Aside from Nicholson, Glen Yang (43 minutes), Hayden Blankley (37), Kobey Lam (37), and Zhu Songwei (33) have all been playing extended minutes and had the chance to have their bodies – all banged up by the playoff physicality – recuperate ahead of Game 3.
On the other hand, the burden of adjustments will now be on the shoulders of the Kings as head coach Tim Cone felt his crew played a little bit complacent in the second game after drawing first blood with a 96-81 win in Game 1.
Ginebra failed to make counter adjustments as Bay Area, after struggling offensively in the series opener, made sure to take the higher percentage shots and pounded the ball inside the paint that caught the Kings’ interior defense anchored on Japeth Aguilar and Christian Standhardinger off guard.
Aside from the offensive adjustments, the Dragons also shone on the defensive end, putting the clamps on Game 1 tormentor LA Tenorio and limiting the impact of Scottie Thompson especially on the rebounding department.
Justin Brownlee got his usual numbers with 32 points but had to bleed for every point as he needed 28 shots to reach his output.
With the crowd expected to rally behind the PBA crowd darlings, the Kings look to get more contributions from the rest of the players especially on the defensive end after Nicholson and Zhu combined for 55 points last time out.
Aguilar, Standhardinger and even talented wingers in Jamie Malonzo and Jeremiah Gray also need to get their bearings going offensively if they wish to regain the upper hand in their Finals ‘home stand’ against the guest team.