With Bay Area showing signs of vulnerability, Barangay Ginebra San Miguel coach Tim Cone knows that this is the perfect time to strike.
And they must go for the kill as soon as possible.
Cone, the league’s most successful mentor, could lead the Kings to their 15th title as early as Wednesday when they collide with the Dragons in Game 6 of their Philippine Basketball Association Commissioner’s Cup best-of-seven finals series.
The seasoned mentor said the absence of Dragons import Andrew Nicholson and star gunner Glenn Yang had swung the momentum to their favor while the emergence of Stanley Pringle could be a major boost in their bid to assert their dominance over the guest team from Hong Kong.
Nicholson, a former National Basketball Association standout, missed his second straight game due to an ankle injury while Yang is also in sickbay after twisting his ankle in the crucial stretch of Game 4 last Friday.
Without their two best players on the floor, the mighty Dragons showed signs of vulnerability with the young Hayden Blankley carrying the scoring cudgels in their 91-101 loss at the jampacked Mall of Asia Arena last Sunday.
It was also a golden opportunity for Pringle to shine as he came off the bench to finish with 20 points, including back-to-back three-pointers in the final 1:32 that doomed the Dragons’ bid to stage another late-game comeback.
Japeth Aguilar and Scottie Thompson then came up with a pair of spectacular plays to completely demoralize the Dragons and move one win away from winning the title.
“He just adds so much depth even though he’s not yet 100 percent at this point,” Cone said, referring to Pringle who spent the majority of the conference riding the bench due to an injury.
“He’s definitely a weapon and he’s a weapon that really Bay Area has not seen because he’s not playing heavy, heavy minutes.”
Cone said that they are ready to deliver the finishing blows, but it’s going to be easier said than done as LA Tenorio — their chief playmaker — will be a doubtful starter after suffering a groin injury in the third quarter of Game 5.
“This is his third game and this what happens when you play three games in five days. This is when injuries happen,” Cone said.
“He is so key to what we do, especially in the playoffs, because he is our leader, he is our ball-handler, he is our organizer. He is also our big-shot guy and our emotional leader as well.”
Cone said they will prepare for Game 6 as if Nicholson will be playing.
“We are planning if he will be playing on Wednesday,” Cone said.
“We already played three games against him so we already know how to defend him We have to recover that if he shows up on Wednesday.”
Still, Dragons coach Brian Goorjian stressed that all bets are off and they will play their hearts out — with or without Nicholson.
“I’d say 50-50,” the Olympic bronze medalist said when asked about Nicholson’s chances for the all-important Game 6.
“So, if there’s any chance, we’ll roll the dice. I’m putting 50-50 there.”