HEAD Coach Tim Cone enumerated several reasons why Barangay Ginebra San Miguel practically ran away with the Philippine Basketball Association Commissioner’s Cup on Sunday night at the Philippine Arena in Bocaue.
Tops among them were he got healthier players, the fans—basically all 54,589 of them who packed the mammoth Bulacan venue—and Hong Kong Bay Area head coach Brian Goorjian.
“Without a doubt, that was the toughest finals series,” he told reporters after their 114-99 victory in the no-tomorrow Game 6 that won for Ginebra its 15th crown and Cone his 25th title in the PBA.
“Coach Brian Goorjian is really special and I can honestly say that,” he stressed. “He goes basically three different line-ups with Canadian Andrew Nicholson, with an all-Chinese line-up and with American Myles Powell.”
Nicholson went down with an ankle injury in Game 3 forcing the Dragons to play Games 4 and 5 without Nicholson and Powell who also had injury issues.
With their backs against the wall as Ginebra led 3-2, Powell was activated and played true to form for a Game 6 win that sent the best-of-seven series to the limit.
“His [Goorjian] team stayed in the flow and when they lost Andrew Nicholson, the spirit was incredible, their motor really lifted instead of going down,” Cone, 65, said. “They didn’t feel sorry for themselves.”
A healthier line-up, too, was the key to Ginebra’s title-conquest, according to Cone.
“The bottom line was we had the healthier line-up, I think, and they didn’t. If they had a healthier line-up all the way through, I do not know if I made the podium,” Cone said.
Goorjian’s defensive and offensive strategies, Cone said, are “so impressive that it made it so difficult to keep up.”
And yes, the fans.
Cone said that the pro-Ginebra crowd has the power “so they have the responsibility to play their best and win for them.”
“I just think you learn a lot about your team and I think the team learned a lot,” said Goorjian, who coached Australia to the men’s gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021.
Goorgian said their unfamiliarity with playing a Game 7 tolled on them.
“We have a younger group which has never experienced anything like this and our battle against Ginebra the whole time and against the top Filipino teams is the mentality and the physical aspect of the game,” he said.
Up next for the team, according to Goorjian, is the East Asia Super League.
Newly-naturalized Justin Brownlee was at his usual spectacular self on Sunday and finished with 37 points—15 he made in the first quarter—eight rebounds, 12 assists and three steals.
The series seasawed from the beginning with Ginebra winning the odd number games—96-81, 89-82 and 101-91—and the Dragons the even number matches—99-82, 94-86 and 87-84.
Image credits: PBA Image