Coach Tim Cone made a disturbing observation about Barangay Ginebra’s form despite arranging an intriguing semi-final against Magnolia on Saturday.
“If we played that against Magnolia, it wouldn’t look like a Super Classic (Manila),” Cone said after Ginebra overcame NorthPort, 99-93, to complete a quarter-final finish on the PBA Commissioners. their at the Philsports Arena in Pasig City.
Cone and his Gin Kings had to overcome an 18-point deficit at the end of the first quarter and a persistent Batang Pier side until the later part of the competition to set up a best-of-five encounter with the Hotshots, who made the day before that semi-finals after beating the Phoenix Fuel Masters just once.
This will be the fourth time since 2014 that two teams owned by the San Miguel Corporation, rivals described as “Manila Clasico,” will feature in the semi-final series, with the tournament slated. will attract a larger audience at this stage of the mid-season tournament.
Likewise, San Miguel Beer completed his quarter-final streak against Converge after a 120-107 victory in the second set.
The Beermen, with Terrence Romeo scoring 22 points, have fixed the series of semi-finals against the Bay Area Dragons starting Wednesday like the Ginebra-Magnolia pairing.
The Gin Kings dominated the knockout round in October, rallying from a double-digit margin to stun Hotshots, 103-97, at the Mall of Asia Arena. But even with that result, Cone is preparing for a tough task against import rival Nick Rakocevic.
Rakocevic has proven himself to be an all-round reinforcement that fits coach Chito Victolero’s system, and could be the main reason the Hotshots won 10 out of 12 games in qualifying.
“He pissed us off when we played them for the first time in the knockout stages,” Cone said when asked about the former Serbian youngster. “He is dominant, especially across the board. I mean, we absolutely can’t get him off the board.
“He is long and tall, but he balances extremely quickly. So that’s something that we’re going to have to look at and prepare better for than when we were eliminated,” Cone added.
Cone also hopes that the NorthPort series will be a lesson for Ginebra this time, as wiping out two games is not easy.
The Gin Kings won, 118–102, in the opening game, but trailed in the third round behind imported Justin Brownlee. Meanwhile, the clincher watched them slowly erase the 29-11 deficit with Scottie Thompson leading the way in the second inning and LA Tenorio winning by knocking down the three clutches that tied him up. Ta with James Yap finished third of all time in shots taken from downtown at 1,178.
“We had to really pick it up,” Cone said. “We had a disappointment at the start of the game. And even when we took the lead, we still made a lot of mental errors. And that’s not the character of our team but it showed.
“We have to play the knockouts better than we did tonight.”
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