MANILA, Philippines – On the same day he received the award for being the first coach in PBA history to win 1,000 games, Barangay Ginebra tactician Tim Cone felt outclassed.
Cone praised TNT mentor Chot Reyes for a job well done as the Gin Kings narrowly escaped an import-less Tropang Giga, 89-85, on Sunday, November 20, to mark the 42nd straight time they will make it past the elimination round.
Playing without import Cameron Oliver, TNT overhauled a 17-point deficit and pushed Ginebra to the limit before falling short in the dying seconds.
“First, let me say this, you name me the winning coach, but I felt like I was totally outcoached today. What an awesome job Talk ‘N Text did, what an awesome job coach Chot did,” said Cone.
“We had to do everything we could just to stay in the game and have a chance to win in the end after our blistering start. Just an incredibly awesome job of coaching. We were lucky to walk out of there with a win. Really lucky.”
The Tropang Giga also lost veteran guard Jayson Castro in the crucial stretch as he twisted his left ankle with under six minutes left in the third period and never returned.
But even with Castro sidelined, TNT turned up the heat and grabbed a 71-68 lead at the end of the third quarter after 3 consecutive triples from Mikey Williams.
Although they were able to wrest back control of the game, the Gin Kings failed to shake off the Tropang Giga until the final 15 seconds, during which Justin Brownlee sank 4 of his 6 free throws to seal the deal for Ginebra.
“They lost Jayson, they lost (Mikey) Williams for a little bit, no import,” Cone said. “(Roger) Pogoy got hurt for a little bit.”
“It looked like they were dropping like flies but they just kept plugging people in and they just kept coming at us and making defensive plays and big offensive plays. Just a really well-coached game. I was just scrambling to keep up.”
Cone, though, gladly accepted the win as the Gin Kings booked their playoff berth with a 7-2 record and enhanced their chances for a twice-to-beat bonus in the quarterfinals.
Sitting at third place behind Bay Area (9-2) and Magnolia (8-2), Ginebra eyes a sweep of its last three assignments against NLEX, NorthPort, and Converge to bolster its bid for the playoff incentive.
“We’ve got a tough road ahead of us, but again, we still control our own destiny and that was what we were trying to do today. We knew if we lost today, we would not be able to control our own destiny,” Cone said.
“With that result, I’m happy. But a little concerned that Talk ‘N Text ripped us apart the way they did.”
The Gin Kings will go for a sixth straight win as they battle the skidding Road Warriors on November 25 at the PhilSports Arena. – Rappler.com