Lastimosa preps for huge Cone, Gin Kings comeback


TNT Tropang Giga shoots for the franchise’s first Philippine Basketball Association Governors’ Cup crown against a Barangay Ginebra San Miguel side that’s limping from back-to-back losses in the best-of-seven championship series.

But for TNT coach Jojo Lastimosa, it will be extremely tough facing Tim Cone and his Gin Kings with their backs against the wall.

“I have been with Tim [Cone] for so long and I’ve known him really well and his coaching style, but he has some secrets that I do not know of,” Lastimosa said. “It’s a long series and a lot of things can happen and closing out games is really, really hard.”

The Tropang Giga lead the series 3-2 with Game 6 set at 5:45 p.m. Friday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

The series seasawed in the first four games with TNT surviving a never-say-die Ginebra side in Game 5, 104-95, where Justin Brownlee was down with food poisoning and played for only 25 minutes and managed 14 points.

He left for the dugout early in the third quarter and never came back.

“Bottomline? We made some turnovers and we couldn’t rebound without Justin [Brownlee] there,” Cone said. “That is the story of the game. It’s really tough when your best player couldn’t play.”

Lastimosa admitted that Brownlee’s absence opened up opportunities for the Tropang Giga.

But with one more win to wrap the conference up, Lastimosa, who played under Cone at Alaska winning several championships including a grand slam, knows his team mustn’t relax.

“Even we’re up 3-2, we are not feeling comfortable. It’s easier said than done against Ginebra and Tim,” he said. “I know they will come back strong and Christian Standhardinger is really a monster in that last game.”

Standhardinger, the conference’s best player, had 29 points and 13 rebounds in Game 5.

Lastimosa said Calvin Oftana has been filling up the void left by the injured Roger Pogoy (fractured finger).

“I wouldn’t say that he’s a revelation, but he’s a breath of fresh air now that Roger isn’t there. He has filled that role very well,” Lastimosa said.

The former San Beda star contributed 20 points on Wednesday night.

“The hardest thing in this league is to be consistent and Calvin is trying to be that person,” Lastimosa said.

Import Rondae Hollis-Jefferson finished with a triple-double of 32 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists while Mikey Williams had 15 points in Game 5.

The challenge for the Gin Kings has toughened up. They never got themselves in a 2-3 situation with Brownlee around—they’re 6 of 6 winning a championships with Brownlee since 2016.

Belated reports on Thursday stated that Brownlee will be back in harness for Game 6.

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