Ginebra walks the talk of the offseason
MANILA, Philippines — Amid talks over Barangay Ginebra San Miguel’s potential in the offseason, the PBA’s most popular ball club did not disappoint fans and doubters alike in the PLDT myDSL Philippine Cup opener.
Riding on the Manila Clasico high, Ginebra bested their long-time rivals San Mig Coffee Mixers, 86-69, on opening day of the PBA’s 39th season, Sunday, November 17 at the SMART Araneta Coliseum.
In this edition of the storied rivalry that dates back to the late 80s, the newly refurbished roster of Ginebra lived up to its billing, showcasing height, power and speed throughout the contest. (READ: PBA Preview: Barangay Ginebra San Miguel)
But they weren’t able to exploit their advantages right off the bat. San Mig Coffee, fresh from their 2013 Governors’ Cup title, simply played better than Ginebra in the first half. (READ: PBA Preview: San Mig Coffee Mixers)
Though playing cold coming from the offseason break, the Mixers were still able to execute their offensive sets better than Ginebra. They shot 19 of their total 44 field goal attempts in the first 24 minutes of play. While Ginebra only had 28 field goal attempts, making only 9 of those, as they struggled to space the floor and create good shots.
Good defense could be credited for the multiple shot clock violations and the 7 and 11 turnovers, San Mig and Ginebra had, respectively, as they headed into the dugout. But both teams were just visibly out of rhythm.
A number of key additions and barely a couple of week’s worth of practices also meant that Ginebra has yet to build formidable chemistry.
“Start of the game, yung first half, medyo out-hustled kami. Hindi yun yung game namin eh,” said Ginebra head coach Ato Agustin, who made no excuses for his team’s lackluster start. (Start of the game, in the first half, we were out-hustled. That was not our game.)
Instead, Agustin made the adjustments at halftime.
Down 36-48 early in the third, rookie big man Greg Slaughter blocked an Alex Mallari attempt, which was followed by a completed and-1 play by Japeth Aguilar on the other end. It was the turning point that sparked a crippling 22-7 run that favored Ginebra.
Agustin continued to experiment with his bench and tried out different combinations until a speedy lineup in Monfort, Tenorio, Aguilar, Ababou and Reyes finally clicked.
Playing before a capacity 20,298-crowd, Ginebra turned to their running and gunning brand of basketball.
“In the second half, we were able to dictate the tempo,” Agustin put it simply.
San Mig Coffee, on the other hand, went from good to worse in the second half. From 7, San Mig’s turnovers escalated to 18, allowing Ginebra to capitalize and get a total of 25 turnover points (19 in the second half). The latter limited their miscues to just 6 for the last two periods.
Agustin also got sound contributions from varying, unlikely sources such as comebacking Dylan Ababou who had 16 points on 3 triples and a perfect 3-of-3 from the field. JayR Reyes also gave quality minutes with his near double-double of 10 points and 9 boards.
Even Emman Monfort played a key role despite only having one point to his name. His energy on the court caused turnovers and more cracks at the basket for Ginebra.
Agustin was also satisfied with the initial performance of their first overall pick Slaughter, who led the team in rebounding with 13 boards to go with his 10 points and two blocks.
“It's good. Nakita mo naman, ilan blocked shots. Nakaka-intimidate. Iba talaga. Especially when Japeth (Aguilar) is there and Greg (Slaughter). Malaking advantage.” (It’s good. You saw it, there were plenty of blocked shots. It’s intimidating. It’s different. Especially when Japeth is there and Greg. It’s a big advantage.)
For San Mig, coach Tim Cone found solid off-the-bench contribution from Val Acuña who had 11 points. But he had little help from the San Mig starters as the only other Mixer in double digits was Mark Barroca with 14 markers.
Second overall pick Ian Sangalang debuted with 8 points and 4 rebounds, while athletic rookie James Melton announced his entry in the PBA with 5 points, 4 dimes, and a whole lot of quickness and energy.
This first game may be a sign of good things to come for the crowd darlings, but Agustin was quick to say that no celebrations are in order for them.
“It's just a first win, hindi dapat magsaya. It's a long way to go.” (It’s just a first win, we shouldn’t celebrate. It’s a long way to go.)
He also added, “We all agreed na team muna. Wala yung pansarili. Committed sila lahat sa team, so we're helping each other.” (We all agreed that we will put the team first. No personal (goals). All of them are committed to the team, so we’re helping each other.)
For this season-opening Manila Clasico, there weren’t much of the old James Yap-Mark Caguioa shootouts, or the down the wire, heart-stopping finishes. This match-up was a battle of everything new about each franchise.
The San Mig Coffee Mixers have yet to display the potential behind their new bloods, while Barangay Ginebra did not let down its loyal fans in their first showing. They walked all the talk over them in the offseason, and, in effect, also sent a message to the entire league: The PBA is back, and so is Barangay Ginebra.
Ginebra (86): Aguilar 18, Tenorio 17, Ababou 16. Slaughter 10, Reyes 10, Ellis 7, Helterbrand 5, Caguioa 2, Monfort 1
San Mig Coffee (69): Barroca 14, Acuña 11, Sangalang 8, Yap 8, Pingris 7, Reavis 7, Melton 5, De Ocampo 4, Mallari 4, Holstein 1
20-21, 34-42, 58-55, 86-69