BATTLE BEGINS

Game 1 of PBA Governors’ Cup Finals kicks off

By: Dennison Rey Dalupang - Philippine Daily Inquirer | January 07,2020 - 06:57 AM

Players and coaching staff from both Meralco and Ginebra gather during a press conference at the Sambokojin Eastwood on Jan. 4, 2020. contributed photo | PBA Images

Barangay Ginebra’s Tim Cone and Meralco’s Norman Black have seen a lot of things transpire in their very long careers in the Philippine Basketball Association, and know that the Governors’ Cup Finals, which they will be a part of, will be the start of a long chess match.

“Obviously, if we could finish it early, we’d like that,” Cone said as he and his Gin Kings try to keep their mastery of Black and his Bolts starting with Game 1 slated at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, January 7, 2020, at the Smart Araneta Coliseum in Cubao. “But our feelings are it’s going to go down to a Game 7, that’s generally the case when you have two really good teams.”

Ginebra and Meralco will be disputing the season-ending title for the third time in the last four years, with the first two best-of-seven series going a combined 13 games. The Kings won the 2016 edition with a buzzer-beating three-pointer from Justin Brownlee in Game 6, which snapped a long drought for Ginebra, while both played to a virtual stalemate until Ginebra pulled it out with a Game 7 thriller the following season.

And those setbacks are still fresh for the Bolts, especially for Black, who did a lot of wheeling and dealing during the season to make sure that they have a fair chance in this race-to-four affair.

“We are much more equipped this time out,” Black said after adding Raymond Almazan, a true center, and Allein Maliksi, a decorated sniper, to his roster that didn’t have a legitimate big man other than Allen Durham and a reliable outside shooter in the caliber of Maliksi in those two losses.

“We feel like we’re in good shape. We tried to pace our players throughout the entire conference to make sure they would stay fresh,” Black said. “We went to the limit in the semifinals [against TNT]. We’ll be ready just in case it does go to a Game 7.”

But wait, it wasn’t only Meralco that added firepower.

Stanley Pringle, probably the most prolific point guard in the league, is the face that Black and his Bolts didn’t see in those previous series, and Cone knows that he has a weapon that Meralco might not have an answer to.

“It would be hard to stop us now,” Cone had said in an earlier interview.

Still, in a series tipped to be a long one, nobody can deny the fact that winning the series opener would be a great advantage, for it gives the loser the burden of adjustment for the next contest and the winner the golden chance to take a comfortable lead come Game 2.

“We’ll throw grenades at each other back and forth for a few games and try to come down to the wire and see who wins it all,” Cone said.

On paper, advantage still is on the side of Ginebra, which has a very balanced, firepower-laden team, which point guard LA Tenorio orchestrates so well.

The hunger factor, meanwhile, is obviously with the Bolts no matter what fans of the other side say.

The Bolts still have Durham, the Best Import in those two seasons when they lost to the Kings. He is playing possibly his best in the last four years, churning out better all-around numbers mainly because he has a better supporting cast. 

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TAGS: 2020, barangay ginebra, Bolts, Finals, Game 1, Gin Kings, ginebra, Ginebra vs Meralco, Governor's Cup Finals, Governors' Cup, Meralco, PBA, PBA Finals

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