As implied in the title, I write this piece with figurative (hmm) tears in my eyes.
It is just two minutes after midnight, around three hours after my team Ginebra San Miguel fell down to a 1-3 hole in the 2017 PBA All Filipino Conference Finals.
No excuses. The San Miguel Beermen peppered the Kings the whole night, starting from their 5-for-5 explosion from the arc that helped them build a 20-2 lead in the opening minutes, to their timely long-ranged baskets in the end game to douse Ginebra’s late rally.
”The game was over in the first five minutes. They truly overwhelmed us,” said coach Tim Cone.
I was supposed to sleep early, because my family and I will go to Manaoag at dawn. But because the die-hard in me just cannot stop thinking of ways how to help the Kings pull out another rabbit out of the hat, I woke up and now I am writing this piece.
Browsing through my Facebook feed, I saw someone post a copy of Joe Devance’s tweet, and it was enough to ignite the Kangkonatic inside me.
#NSD TILL THE LAST SECOND!!! See you guys Sunday!!! #faith.
Those who know me knows how much I admire JDV’s heart, because he now has Ginebrenaline (I will force it, yes) running in each and every vein, playing through pain and outperforming an 80% healthy Japeth Aguilar, who suffered a hyperextended right elbow last month.
Then in an article in Spin.ph, JDV said there is no better time to live up to the NSD trademark and survive three straight do-or-die games against the Beeracle-inspired San Miguel to end the KangKings’ decade-long Philippine Cup title drought.
Wanna know something eerie? Inside that same article, it was said that only once in PBA history did a team come back and won from a 1-3 deficit in the Finals – in 1991, by a team named Ginebra San Miguel. (EERIE 1)
So I looked it up on the internet, and without concrete PBA data, I am trusting the ever-honest Wikipedia page on this. Sorry Mocha Uson, if I am breaching your rules in checking my facts.
During that year the PBA’s first conference was an import-laden one and Ginebra was coached by some guy named Robert Jaworski ( not sure who he is) and they were up against Shell Rimula X, then bannered by two PBA Icons: Benjie Paras, who is sort of like the 90’s version of June Mar Fajardo, towering above competition and equipped with the skill to be consistently dominant, and his partner Ronnie Magsanoc, a Point God. I ain’t saying Chris Ross is on Magsanoc’s level, but with his performances in this series, sheesh, he’s just a peg or two below. (EERIE 2)
I thought I was onto something, before the Game 4 of the 1991 finals broke the chain of similarities between the two finals. In that year’s Game 4, Ginebra did force another OT and lost. Last night, the Kings did ignite somewhat of a comeback, but were only able to cut the deficit to nine.
Well anyway, to refresh your memories, that Finals was one of the main reasons why the Ginebra franchise was baptized with the Never-Say-Die tag. Down 80-85 in a tension filled Game 5, Ginebra went on a warpath and put on a 32-0 run to stampede to victory and extend the series.
Game 6 was a similar story, since Ginebra were chasing Shell for most of the game before catching fire in the payoff period and snatching another late game victory and forcing a winner-take-all Game 7.
Then Rudy Distrito happened in Game 7, whose game-winner gifted Ginebra its third title in club history and making Paras and company the butt of 3-1 jokes, only that time, not many had access to the interwebs and the Golden State Warriors were 25 years away from making their own 3-1 bungle, so it wasn’t a thing yet back then.
So how can the Kings repeat history?
The logical answer: They can’t. With the way they are shooting, the San Miguel Beermen are happily drunk in basketball valhalla. The guards are making their outside shots, Gabby Espinas is making his outside shots, and Fajardo is too heavy for Aguilar at the post and too silky for Dave Marcelo at the elbow. This is like when Orlando reached the 2009 NBA finals with Dwight Howard in the center of four spread-out shooters. The only thing that’s stopping the Beermen from trampling the Kings is the fact that they are humans and that they can miss. They started Game 4 shooting 11-oof-17 from deep and erected a 55-34 lead at the break, they shot 4-of-18 from the arc the rest of the way and they won only by nine.
Note: in Game 2, the Beermen shot 17-of-46 from the outside, and lost.Blame Santos,since he took 211 of those 46 three pointers.
The fan answer: That’s basically it, the Kings should try to survive and wait for the moment when the Beermen lose steam from outside, because that’s when you can make runs and swing the momentum to your favor. They did make significant runs in Game 4, but Sol Mercado missed two open layups, and Cone, with all due respect, did not call Chris Ellis’ number again despite a good shooting night for the wingman, who scored 10 points and was perfect in five attempts.
I do think the Xs and the Os are still important in the rest of the series, but I suggest Cone and his staff concentrate on outside shooting more than plays in the next 48 hours, since the Kings are seriously outgunned. In Game 2, the Kings won after making nine out of 17 3pt attempts. But in Games 3 and 4, they made only 12 three pointers in 44 tries, hearkening back to their performances in the eliminations.
Like how Cone said after Game 3, the Kings should just do what they have done from the start – double on June Mar and try your best to close out on shooters and hope for a miss. So, if there’s anything that’s lacking in Ginebra’s last few games, it’s the crispy-licious triangle basketball sprinkled with some firepowder from Sol and LA.
Please bring it on in Game 5.
Never Say Die.