MANILA, Philippines – As the seconds mercilessly trickled down the game clock, and fans of the San Miguel Beermen serenaded the Gin Kings at the Smart Araneta Coliseum, and Kelly Nabong bombed 3-pointers from long range, and June Mar Fajardo threw down poster dunks, 20-time champion coach Tim Cone sat on the Ginebra bench, head down, disappointment on his face.
Actually, it was more than that. For a few brief instances, he looked deflated. Lost.
For the second straight game, these unstoppable-looking Beermen ran Ginebra out of the historic Big Dome in Cubao in the Commissioner’s Cup finals to take a 2-1 series lead. The Barangay in attendance was held silent, most of them also in disbelief in what they witnessed anew.
Losing one game via blowout is fine. But for it to happen two consecutive times, with a team coached by the legendary Cone? It’s unheard of.
Before this best-of-7 championship clash started, many expected it to be the stuff of legends. But 3 games and as many blowouts in, it’s starting to look like one of the most forgettable series in the PBA’s rich 43-year history.
The Gin Kings drew first blood in the opening, delivering a painful haymaker to put the fear in SMB’s hearts. But since then, San Miguel has given Ginebra and the rest of the country a nice little reminder of who runs basketball in this nation with a combined winning margin of 63 points.
Let me say that again. 63.
In Game 2 it was Alex Cabagnot who slithered inside Ginebra’s defense like a long-haired ninja from a different era to convert tough layup after tough layup, contested jumper after contested jumper. In Game 3, Chris Ross hit 7 triples and took command of the contest even after getting elbowed on the head by his import teammate, Renaldo Balkman, who along with June Mar Fajardo has been consistently dominant in the postseason.
By the way, can anyone remember the last time Ross hit 7 3-pointers in a month? He had that many by the 3rd quarter, during which the Beermen ran away with the lead and control of the series. Ginebra dared him to beat them from the outside, and boy did he make them pay.
Truth be told, it’s starting to feel like Ginebra needs to have a perfect game in order to stay on the same level as these Beermen. It’s not impossible. After all, the Gin Kings looked assertive and confident in the opening match of this series.
San Miguel, however, is too good and too deep for the first game to have a similar sequel. Coach Leo Austria said he doesn’t need to motivate his team because they’re naturally motivated, and it showed when they attained payback in style over the last 4 days.
These Beermen have too many weapons. Marcio Lassiter and Arwind Santos have yet to have reverberating impact 3 games in, but it might not be necessary for San Miguel to add another championship to its stacked collection.
Adding to that, when you have a menace like Christian Standhardinger coming off the bench for 12 points, 8 boards, and resounding hustle in limited time, you know you’re in good shape. You can thank the Dyip for that, by the way, Ginebra.
It’s not that Ginebra can no longer win a game in this series, because my money’s on them pushing this to at least 6 games, though I wouldn’t bank on the idea of SMB losing another game as badly as they did in Game 1. And if they were to lose another game, it’s going to take a hell of a performance from the Gin Kings, not to mention some actual fight.
Because what we’ve seen in the last two games from them resembles nothing close to that.
“I’m embarrassed by our performance,” said Cone after Game 3, keeping his statement short.
“They are too good for us.”
Ginebra’s defense looks like a mess, because San Miguel’s arsenal of weapons have left them without any answers. Double teaming Fajardo is a no-no given how many other scorers the team has. The best bet is to let Ross beat you from the outside, and when he does that the way he did in Game 3, you can’t do anything but accept defeat.
On offense, there’s no way to overstate that Cone needs production from his guys beyond Justin Brownlee. LA Tenorio, Japeth Aguilar, Greg Slaughter, and Jeff Chan can’t be held to single-digit scoring the way they were in Game 3, otherwise there will be another 4th quarter where the game’s panelists discuss how Ginebra can use playing well while being down by more than 20 for momentum entering the next match. A morale victory, in short.
Except this is the finals. This isn’t the time for morale victories. A lot of pride is on the line between both successful franchises, and right now, it’s San Miguel which looks ready to cruise to victory.
Remind me again which team has already won more than two championships dating back to 2014? – Rappler.com