(Smart Araneta Coliseum)
5:45 p.m. – Ginebra vs Bay Area
For the second time in the Philippine Basketball Association Commissioner’s Cup, Barangay Ginebra San Miguel was able to pull off a convincing victory over Bay Area to gain an edge in their best-of-seven finals series.
Now, the Kings have a golden chance to move halfway from clinching the title – their seventh under decorated mentor Tim Cone.
The winningest mentor in league history doesn’t want to look too far ahead as the Kings battle a very dangerous Bay Area squad in Game 2 on Wednesday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Handled by Tokyo Olympics medalist Brian Goorjian, Dragons have yet to lose back-to-back games and the American mentor is wary of a big fightback in their 5:45 p.m. encounter.
For the Dragons, a big part of winning over Ginebra, aside from dealing with its ever-reliable supporters, is to get more consistent production from other players aside from import Andrew Nicholson.
Nicholson, who averaged more than 35 points per game when they knocked out San Miguel Beer in the best-of-five semifinal series, was held to his lowest offensive output, prompting Ginebra to run away with a 96-81 victory in their Christmas Day battle.
The former National Basketball Association standout was limited to only 27 points, with eight forgettable points coming at the first half.
“Christian Standhardinger did a great job guarding him and limiting his treys,” Cone, who has 24 PBA titles in his collection, said.
“I don’t know if he can keep that up for seven games, but we’ll certainly try to do it.”
Aside from doing an excellent job as an import-stopper and playing extremely well on mind games similar to what he did to Magnolia reinforcement Nick Rakocevic in the semifinals, Standhardinger also imposed his presence on both ends of the court.
The Filipino-German banger finished with 16 points on 8-of-12 shooting from the field on top of 10 rebounds and a lot of intangibles.
But Nicholson wasn’t the only Dragon who struggled at the firing end.
Hayden Blankley, the 22-year-old Australian swingman, fired blanks from the three-point territory to finish with only four points on 2-of-13 field goal shooting – a production that is way below his 47-point explosion in their 126-96 victory over Rain or Shine in the quarterfinals.
Even other players like Glen Yang, Zhu Songwei and Kobey Lam failed to get their games going as they shot only 36 percent from the field.
Still, Cone doesn’t like his boys to get too excited, knowing that the Dragons are capable of mounting a major fightback that could switch the momentum to their favor and completely alter the complexion of the series.
“If Blankley makes 30 percent of those shots, it would have been a different basketball game. He got good looks, but just could not knock them down. They were going in and out” Cone said.
“Those are the things we have to look at. Why is he getting open? Why is he getting good looks? He shouldn’t be getting those looks if we’re playing good defense. Fortunately for us, he didn’t make them.”