MANILA, Philippines – Barangay Ginebra sees its chance of winning increase whenever Justin Brownlee stuffs the stats sheet, and in Game 3 of the PBA Governors' Cup finals against Meralco, it showed.
Brownlee churned out a near-triple-double of 24 points, 9 rebounds, and 9 assists as the Gin Kings toppled the Bolts, 92-84, to seize a 2-1 advantage in the best-of-seven series on Sunday, January 12.
His Game 3 outing was obviously his best all-around showing in the finals, especially after being limited to just a single assist in the first two games combined.
With his teammates benefitting from his passing, Brownlee and Ginebra came away with its most convincing victory so far after winning Game 1 by only 4 points and dropping Game 2 by 2 points.
Brownlee admitted to making a conscious effort to locate his open teammates after talking with coach Tim Cone.
"Coach had a talk with me and [he] told me I didn't have any assists – oh, 1 assist – the past two games and I've been averaging about 6 or 7, something like that," Brownlee told reporters after the game.
He normed 7.2 assists before the finals and breached double figures in assists in 4 games in the season-ending conference.
"I really want to focus on getting guys going, trying to get guys open looks, and I always try to focus on defense."
His passing brilliance was most evident in the last two minutes as he assisted LA Tenorio for a three-pointer and Japeth Aguilar for a layup – shots that closed all doors on any Meralco comeback.
"I just try to be aggressive and just try to take whatever the defense gives me," the three-time PBA champion said.
Cone, though, clarified he did not really have to ask Brownlee to move the ball better, it is just the Bolts' stifling defense prevent him from doing so.
"We all know he loves to pass – he's a great passer – but the defense was just not letting him create," Cone said.
"[Now], he was able to get into the paint a little bit more and create some assists. When he's doing that, I think we're playing at a really good rhythm. We're playing off his assists more than we play off his scores."
Brownlee and Gin Kings shoot for a commanding 3-1 lead in Game 4 on Wednesday, January 13, at the Araneta Coliseum. – Rappler.com
Delfin Dioquino dreamt of being a PBA player, but he did not have the skills to make it. So he pursued the next best thing to being an athlete – to write about them. He took up journalism at the University of Santo Tomas and joined Rappler as soon as he graduated in 2017.