History favors Barangay Ginebra even after it failed to take the No. 1 seed going into the PBA Governors’ Cup playoffs which starts Sunday.
The twice-to-beat Gin Kings look to eliminate the NLEX Road Warriors at Smart Araneta Coliseum and gain another step on the road to the championship of the season-ending conference.
Ginebra’s quest for a third straight Governors’ Cup and eighth title under coach Tim Cone will have to be done as the third seed, after squandering a huge lead against TNT two nights earlier at Philsports Arena in Pasig City.
A victory by at least five points would have given Ginebra the top ranking and a matchup against a perceived lightweight in No. 8 Phoenix. Instead, it will be against the sixth-ranked NLEX side which gave Ginebra fits despite a losing effort in the eliminations.
“We knew we were going to play on Sunday no matter what our seeding was, so we were careful with the minutes of our key guys, Justin [Brownlee], Scottie [Thompson], Christian [Standhardinger], etc.,” Cone explained on Saturday.
“Despite the loss, we feel we got the rhythm we wanted after being off for the All-Star week. We know NLEX is incredibly tough. They have a dominant import [Wayne Selden Jr.] and agreat help around him in [Kevin] Alas, [Don] Trollano and the rapidly improving [Brandon] Ganuelas-Rosser. We’ll have to bring our A-game to have a chance to beat them.”
Except in the 2020 Philippine Cup bubble, Ginebra won its championships without the luxury of the No. 1 position. The Gin Kings ruled the 2016 and 2017 editions of the Governors’ Cup and this season’s Commissioner’s Cup after placing third in the eliminations.
The Gin Kings were ranked fifth in the 2018 Commissioner’s Cup, fourth in the 2019 Governors’ Cup and sixth in the last year’s Governors’ Cup, but ended up savoring the thrill of victory in front of their loyal supporters.
It is something Ginebra hopes to do again as action is expected to reach another boiling point.
Ginebra and NLEX meet at 6:45 p.m. after the quarterfinal opener between No. 2 San Miguel Beer and No. 7 Converge at 4:30 p.m.
A beleaguered Converge side tries to push San Miguel to a decider with new import Tom Vodanovich, who replaced Jamaal Franklin after drawing the ire of coach Aldin Ayo and management with his performance against Ginebra in the team’s elimination round closer.
Franklin attempted just five shots despite being a high-octane scorer for the FiberXers in the eliminations, and Converge opted to replace him with a member of the New Zealand national team.
Converge won the elimination round meeting, 107-103, last Feb. 11 behind Franklin, but it will be San Miguel that goes into the matchup with the quarterfinal incentive.
Ginebra edged NLEX, 114-111, in a thriller on Feb. 8 despite having to overcome a seven-point deficit in the final two minutes thanks to the timely shooting of rookie Jeremiah Gray.
Selden and Trollano are eager to make up for their collapse and force the Gin Kings into a do-or-die situation.
The two other quarterfinal pairings are set Wednesday, also at the historic Big Dome, with No. 4 Meralco against No. 5 Magnolia and No. 1 TNT facing No. 8 Phoenix.
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