MANILA, Philippines – Justin Brownlee played like he wanted to prove himself on the same day he fell short of another Best Import award as he propelled Barangay Ginebra on the verge of another PBA title.
Brownlee had 27 points, 8 rebounds, 8 assists, 5 steals, and 4 blocks in a 94-72 win over Meralco in the Governors' Cup finals that gave his side a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven duel on Wednesday, January 15.
His blazing all-around performance somehow overshadowed the Best Import crowning of the Bolts' Allen Durham, but Gin Kings head coach Tim Cone did not see it as a revenge game of sorts from Brownlee.
"He wouldn't come out here and say, 'I'm upset that I lost the Best Import award and that's why I played hard' because Justin's really not about awards, he's about championships," Cone said.
"That's what we love so much about him – is that he really cares about winning for the team, not for himself. He's really special that way."
It was the third time Brownlee lost the Best Import award to Durham, who also won the coveted plum in the 2016 and 2017 editions of the Governors' Cup.
But that hardly dampened his spirits.
Limited to 2 points in the opening quarter, Brownlee waxed hot for 15 points as he fueled their second-quarter pullaway that saw Ginebra swing a 14-14 deadlock to a 42-31 lead heading into the halftime break.
"[E]ven though he didn't win the Best Import award, he's still going to go down as one of the greatest imports, at least in Ginebra history [and] maybe, PBA history," Cone said of the beloved reinforcement.
Brownlee, meanwhile, took the Best Import loss in stride.
"Would have been great to win it but Allen, after everything, he deserved it," Brownlee told reporters of Durham.
"Every time he's here in the Philippines, he elevated this team and have them playing great basketball – I think playing at the highest level – so I think he deserves it."
What Brownlee is focused on is winning his fourth championship with the Gin Kings and his third Governors' Cup crown in the last 4 seasons.
But Brownlee does not want to look too far ahead when Ginebra goes for the kill against Meralco in Game 5 on Friday, January 17, at the Mall of Asia Arena.
"I'm still looking at them like a dangerous team," Brownlee said.
"They probably lost some confidence, but I think a turnaround [is] coming in Friday. They're going to be very confident in what they can do to try to force another game and just try to force this into Game 7." – 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.