For whom will fireworks in Bocaue be for: Gin Kings or Dragons?


BARANGAY Ginebra San Miguel and Hong Kong Bay Area clash in an epic Game 7 for the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Commissioner’s Cup crown Sunday with more than 50,000 fans expected to pack the mammoth Philippine Arena in Bocaue.

The pendulum favors the Gin Kings in the best-of-seven Finals series with the league’s most popular team winning the odd-numbered games and the Dragons prevailing in the even-numbered matches.

But in a Finals showdown that already clinched its nook in PBA history, the mystic numerology brings is thrown out the window.

Instead, it will be a battle of strength, wits and skills on the arena’s hard court that has had its share of victories, defeats and, who could forget, that unforgettably regrettable rumble between the national team and the guys from Down Under years ago.

Originally scheduled for Friday, Ginebra coach Tim Cone said the extra two days give his team adequate time to shatter the Myles Powell-Dragons chemistry that prevented the Gin Kings’ red balloons from falling down the Smart Araneta Coliseum in Game 6 on Wednesday night.

“We have a little more time and rethink what we need to do about him,” said Cone, referring to Powell who was called to action from injury bay and dazzled to allow his team to level the series. “It gives our guys a little extra time to rest and be ready for him. We will just do what we can because this is our first time with him.”

Powell exploded with 29 points and grabbed seven rebounds in the 87-84 win in Game 6.

He’ll be up in a marquee matchup with Justin Brownlee, who’s expected to play more inspired after President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. signed his naturalization papers before the weekend.

Brownlee is averaging 31.8 points, 12 rebounds, 6.1 assists, 2.6 steals and 1.8 blocks in the Finals. He had a triple-double of 37 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists in that Game 6 loss.

Dragons’ head coach Brian Goorjian knows what his team would be facing in Game 7 that tips off at 5:45 p.m.—a raucous crowd rooting for their opponents.

“It’s totally will,” said Goorjian, as he retools his plays focused not only on Powell but also Hayden Blankley, Songwei Zhu, Glenn Yang and Kobey Lam.

Interestingly, Goorjian’s most illustrious accomplishment as a coach was a bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympics for Australia, the team Gilas Pilipinas forced to a brawl in a FIBA Olympic qualifier in 2018.

Blankley found his touch in Game 6 and finished with 29 points, while Zhu had 10 points and 10 assists. Yang and Lam contributed 10 points each.

Powell talked about extra energy and defiance against the Gin Kings in Game 7.

“They [Gin Kings] are going to punch us if we don’t play great,” said Powell, who before Game 6, last played on November 23 and scored 37 points in a victory over TNT.

He sat out their first playoff quarterfinals game against Rain or Shine with Canadian Andrew Nicholson taking over en route to victories over the Elasto Painters and the San Miguel Beermen in the semifinals, 4-1.

Goorjian and the entire Dragons squad admitted they’re venturing into unchartered waters.

“I haven’t been into a Game 7 before,” Goorjian said.

The Gin Kings won Game 1, 96-81; Game 3, 89-82; and Game 5, 101-91; while the Dragons took Game 2, 99-82; Game 4, 94-86; and Game 6, 87-84.

Ginebra is aiming for its third Commissioner’s Cup crown and 15th PBA title with Cone targetting a runaway 25th league championships ring.

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