Tim Cone and the rest of the Barangay Ginebra brain trust knew what they were looking at heading into Game 6—the potential clincher in the Gin Kings’ title series against Bay Area for the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Commissioner’s Cup.
And with history saying that of the first 59 teams that took Game 5 coming off a 2-2 stalemate, 44 went on to win the title, Cone should have little worries that they can complete the job with a two-for-one shot at the franchise’s 15th title.
But the complexion of the game—and possibly the last two games of the series, if it gets there—changed right before Ginebra practice on Tuesday.
“We had to make a right turn since we found about [the news] at practice,” Cone told the Inquirer on the eve of their 5:45 clash with the back-to-the-wall Dragons at Smart Araneta Coliseum as he was asked about the reactivation of Myles Powell, who will be Bay Area’s import from hereon.
The high-scoring American guard, who averaged nearly 40 points before going down with a left foot problem just before the playoffs, was given the go-signal by team physicians and will give the Dragons a new look as he will obviously be a different defensive challenge for Ginebra being smaller than Andrew Nicholson.
Powell hasn’t actually beaten Ginebra here, he hasn’t even faced the Gin Kings yet, with the Dragons’ 111-93 loss in the eliminations coming even with Nicholson scoring 28 points and grabbing 12 rebounds.
And Cone knows that the dynamics of Game 6 has just changed drastically.
“We did have time to prepare a bit, [but] Powell will certainly change the way they play,” Cone pointed out. “We will have to change our defense.”
Powell played eight games for Bay Area, splitting the elimination round with Nicholson. He has a PBA career-high of 50 points and is a relentless scorer from inside and out, unlike Nicholson who uses his size and heft to dominate.
Cone has every reason to feel extra cautious. Ginebra, after all, was stunned by the visitors despite playing without an import with Nicholson unavailable for Game 4 and Powell still recovering.
Veteran playmaker LA Tenorio said they were caught off guard by Bay Area’s decision to gut it out without the injured Canadian, as it empowered its other players Kobey Lam and Glen Yang, making them assertive.
The Gin Kings could clinch the title with another win, extending the San Miguel Corp.’s dominant reign in the pro league that dates back to the 2016 season.
The Dragons, meanwhile, are looking to earn another playdate in hopes of preserving their bid to become the first guest club since the 1985 Northern Consolidated Cement team to win it all.
“We lose, we’re out. It’s to that point,” said Bay Area coach Brian Goorjian.
Northern Cement was actually the Philippine Team that was reinforced by naturalized players Jeff Moore and Dennis Still, but its core was a homegrown bunch led by the finest amateurs at that time.
The first foreign guest team to win in the PBA was Nicholas Stoodley, a talented crop of Americans led by the prolific Larry Pounds, who went on to have a PBA career with U-Tex.
Nicholas Stoodley went on to sweep Toyota in the best-of-three series for the title. INQ
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