Eros Stock – Cone, Dickel weigh in on Ginebra vs. TNT
Scottie Thompson’s game-winning triple to send Barangay Ginebra into the 2020 P(BA) Philippine Cup Finals was reminiscent of a historic shot that etched Justin Brownlee into the franchise’s storied lore.
Four years after Brownlee buried the trey in Game 6 of the 2016 Governors’ Cup to end an eight-year title drought, Thompson came up with his own signature moment by putting the Gin Kings in a position to vie for an All-Filipino crown that has eluded the franchise for 13 years now.
That reason alone is why head coach Tim Cone thinks Thompson’s dagger ranks pretty close to that Brownlee shot.
“Of course, the first championship with the Justin shot, that’s the crème de la crème. But this one is right there close to it,” he said after Ginebra edged out Meralco 83-80 in Game 5 of their semifinals matchup.
Against TNT on Sunday, Nov. 29, Ginebra can finally begin its quest to win its first Philippine Cup title since 2007.
“We’re all going for that All-Filipino (title). That’s the crown jewel, that’s what everybody wants. I realize it’s a semifinal game, and not the Finals and not the championship. But without this, we don’t have a chance to go on. So, this was very, very crucial,” Cone added.
Thompson’s game-winner also finally lifted Ginebra over its familiar nemesis after a grueling five-game series which left Cone in awe of his counterpart on the other side.
“I really feel for Norman (Black) because he coached a hell of a series. From the bottom of my heart, it was a tremendously coached series. His adjustments were tremendous,” he raved. “We’re not really best friends, but we’re close, so it really pains to know the pain he has to go through for us to be happy.”
This is the fourth time in the last five seasons that the Gin Kings proved to be a thorn on the coach Black and the Bolts’ side, though Cone said this felt a little more difficult for Ginebra since it had to go up against a Meralco team that was admittedly a little hungrier than they were.
“I think both teams really wanted it. In fact, honestly they wanted it a little bit more than we did. I felt they played with a little bit more urgency than we did,” he said. “Meralco’s such a great team. They are a great team, and everything that means a team, they are.”
Now the focus is on the Tropang Giga, a team that barged into the All-Filipino Finals for the first time in seven years after going through the wringer against the Phoenix Fuel Masters.
“They were the favorite team, I think, coming into this bubble. I think that they showed that from the very beginning,” said Cone. “I do think that they’re the favorites. And I think we’ll go in as slight underdogs, as opposed to this (vs. Meralco) series where we were a little bit favored.”
On top of Cone’s concerns is Jayson Castro, who at 34 is still running circles around opposing backcourt defenses.
“Jayson’s a difference maker,” he said. “We had a really hard time trying to control Chris Newsome in this series. He played a hell of a series. That scares us a little bit because as great Chris is, Jayson takes it to another level. Hopefully we can try to figure out a way to control him.”
But as lethal as Castro may be, Ginebra will also have to devote a lot of attention to the man who towed the TNT offense past the gritty Fuel Masters and into the championship round.
As the Phoenix defense keyed in on Castro (14.6 points on 34 percent) and Roger Pogoy (13.2 points, 30.3 percent) for most of the series, Ray Parks emerged as the Tropang Giga’s most consistent scorer and averaged 27.8 points on 50 percent shooting from the field in five games.
“It just speaks to how bad we wanted it. We’re here now,” Parks said Friday. “We just wanted to make it into the finals, and the job is not finished yet.”
With TNT facing a 2-1 hole, Parks averaged 31.0 points in the last two outings — including 16 per game in the final 12 minutes of each match. Throughout the series, he also connected on 45.2 percent of his shots from long range and added 8.4 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.8 assists in 43 minutes per game.
“Not surprised about how Ray played at all,” TNT active consultant Mark Dickel told ESPN5.com in a text message. “He is a great player, so him playing like that is no shock.”
Despite some struggles from Poy Erram (8.8 points, 8.8 rebounds) and Troy Rosario (6.6 points on 24.5 percent shooting, 8.2 rebounds), TNT will still be entering the finals against Ginebra sharper while carrying some much-needed lessons from that Phoenix slugfest.
“(I’m) not concerned about anyone’s production on our team because we want them all to make the correct play,” said Dickel when asked about the dip in production from his two frontcourt mainstays. “We learnt a lot from Phoenix. They really challenged us at both ends. Good preparation for the finals.”
As for the claim that Ginebra is the underdog in this series, Dickel begs to differ.
In their first meeting of the season 22 days ago, an ice-cold TNT offense gave up an 85-79 decision against the Gin Kings in what was then a battle between two league leaders atop the standings. The Tropang Giga shot an abysmal 29.2 percent on their shots and hit just 5-for-41 (12.2 percent) of their threes.
Inside the bubble, however, that loss feels like ages ago.
What matters now for Dickel and TNT is that they do well enough in the final stretch to win the franchise’s first title in the conference since the 2012-13 season — and, in the process, end a four-season P(BA) championship drought that feels longer than it actually is.
“Ginebra played well against us in the eliminations. And we struggled to get a rhythm. (But) each game is always new,” said Dickel. “They play hard and smart and don’t beat themselves. We must answer the call for seven games to give ourselves a chance to win. We are excited for the opportunity.”