MANILA, Philippines – LA Tenorio turned into the Grinch and stole Christmas from Bay Area, guiding Barangay Ginebra to a 96-81 win in Game 1 of the PBA Commissioner’s Cup finals at the Mall of Asia Arena on Sunday, December 25.
Tenorio gifted the Gin Kings’ fans that made up most of the 18,252 in attendance his finest game of the tournament, draining a conference-high 22 points as Ginebra bucked a slow start to draw first blood in the best-of-seven duel.
Unleashed since the start of the playoffs, Tenorio helped set the tone in the victory, dropping 14 points in the first half and anchoring a pivotal 15-0 blast in the second quarter that ultimately turned the tides for the Gin Kings.
The Dragons enjoyed their biggest lead of the game at 34-26 before Tenorio caught fire and drained a pair of triples during that stretch, with Christian Standhardinger also contributing 6 points.
Justin Brownlee then capped that run with a three-pointer for a 41-34 lead and Ginebra never looked back as it put the clamps on Bay Area, which got limited to a conference-low in points.
Brownlee finished with a game-high 28 points on top of 13 rebounds and 6 assists, knocking down big shot after big shot in the fourth quarter that took the fight out of the Dragons.
An Andrew Nicholson trey pulled Bay Area within 6 points with under eight minutes left, 74-80, but the Gin Kings ended the game with a 16-7 finishing kick, with Brownlee scoring their last 6 points within the last two minutes.
“This is very important for us. I had a lot of finals appearances and Game 1 is really important,” said Tenorio, who found time for 3 assists and 3 steals.
Standhardinger put up 16 points, 10 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 steals, while reigning MVP Scottie Thompson shone on both ends in the win with 14 points, 9 rebounds, 6 assists, and 2 blocks.
The Dragons have been the best offensive team in the PBA, averaging a league-leading 110.4 points prior to the finals.
But against Ginebra, Bay Area got contained to under 85 points for the first time as it shot 38.5% from the field, a far cry from its average of 49%, also a league-best mark.
Nicholson particularly bore the brunt of the Gin Kings’ stifling defense and recorded a conference-low 27 points, a performance that came on the heels of dominant semifinals run that saw him average 35 points against San Miguel.
His previous conference-low of 28 points also came against Ginebra in a 111-93 blowout loss during his PBA debut in October.
Glen Yang and Zhu Songwei added 12 points each in the defeat, while Kobey Lam tossed in 11 points and 6 assists.
Firing a conference-high 47 points just this month, Hayden Blankley scored just 4 points for the Dragons after missing all of his 9 three-point attempts.
Barangay Ginebra 96 – Brownlee 28, Tenorio 22, Standhardinger 16, Thompson 14, J. Aguilar 6, Pringle 5, Malonzo 3, Gray 2, Pessumal 0, R. Aguilar 0, Mariano 0.
Bay Area 81 – Nicholson 27 Ynag 12, Zhu 12, Lam 11, Ju 6, Song 5, Blankley 4, Liu 2, Zheng 2, Reid 0.
Quarters: 22-25, 45-40, 72-64, 96-81.