The atmosphere that is expected for Game 7 of the PBA Commissioner’s Cup at Philippine Arena will be one that Bay Area will experience for the first time.
But the Dragons know what they came here to do—and whether that would be a disadvantage as far as they are concerned, the visitors from Hong Kong will be embracing the challenge, basking in the opportunity.
Coach Brian Goorjian, in fact, is relishing the opportunity to play before at least 50,000 fans—majority of them would be hoping, for sure, to see Barangay Ginebra slay the Dragons in the title decider in Bocaue, Bulacan, on Sunday.
“We’re playing with bank’s money,” said Goorjian. “And [at Philippine Arena], 50,000 [fans] or whatever, I hope every seat in that place is sold out, and it’s something that nobody will forget.
“[It’s going to be] another special game of basketball like it is [in Game 6], and let the cards fall where they may,” added Goorjian, who will get a dress rehearsal of how it is to play in the cavernous arena before he handles Australia for the International Basketball Federation (Fiba) World Cup later this year.
Game 6 was witnessed by more than 22,000 souls Wednesday night, when the Dragons carved out an 87-84 victory amid all the jeers.
Lift from crowd
It’s going to get louder—and maybe even nastier—in Game 7.
The Ginebra crowd has shown for some parts of the series that they can intimidate the Dragons. And more than battling the Gin Kings for 48 minutes, they will have to deal with a rowdy crowd that loves Ginebra to their bones.
In fact, Ginebra coach Tim Cone lauded his team’s legion of supporters in Game 3, where the Kings erased a seven-point deficit in the final four minutes for an 89-82 victory at Mall of Asia Arena.
“Bay Area [experienced] that for the first time and they’re doing a great job,” Cone said after that win. “I’ve been through countless, countless games against Ginebra [when I was coaching Alaska and San Mig before], and every time, it’s all about trying to keep the crowd out of your mind, trying to keep the referees out of your mind, trying to just focus on what you gotta do.
“And it’s really, really hard.”
Bay Area has shown that it can also tune out the noise, like in Game 6 when fans’ hopes of seeing a championship celebration at Smart Araneta Coliseum were dashed when Myles Powell made his first appearance in the series and keyed the win.
The fans made it known that playing hurt or not, Powell wasn’t getting any love from them.
Showing poise like the seasoned player that he is, Powell came back from a foot injury to score 29 points off the bench. Fans booed him upon his first entry in the contest, and those same individuals were left stunned every time the ex-NBA player scored a basket.
And now the Dragons have one more chance to overcome such a setting, which will be double than the ones they got a taste of in the first six games of the championship series.
“Honestly, I love this,” Goorjian said. “Coming in here and being in an environment whether they’re cheering for you or not, we always say, we play basketball for entertainment.
“A lot of people are in bubbles and hubs now, playing in front of 1,500 people. We’re in a country that loves basketball and the stadium’s packed. We got 50,000 people waiting for us? That’s why we’re here. That’s why we’re breathing.”
For Cone, he would like to see that thing play out with Ginebra on the winning end of the stick—getting a kind of sixth-man help from the Ginebra faithful.
“I hope they all come. It’d be nice,” Cone said.
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