Defending champion Barangay Ginebra San Miguel starts its quest for back-to-back Governors’ Cup crowns today in Game 1 of their best-of-seven championship series against Meralco in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Season 42 Governors’ Cup at the Quezon Convention Center in Lucena City.
In a rematch of last conference’s finals showdown, the Gin Kings and the Bolts collide at 7 p.m.
In their finals showdown last season, Meralco drew the first blood, 114-109, in overtime but Ginebra recovered and took the series in six games capped by Gin Kings import Justin Brownlee’ title-clinching three-pointer.
“In any series, winning Game 1 is crucial because you’ll get a chance to dictate the series. In the TNT series, we won Game 1 and we dictated the series,” said Gin Kings head coach Tim Cone, referring to their 3-1 semifinals win against the KaTropa.
“There is comfortability of being ahead in the series and there is a little sense of panic of being behind. Game 1 sets the tempo for you. It kind of allows you to dictate the match ups, dictate the adjustments and play from a comfortable view. So, Game 1 is very important especially against Meralco,” he added.
The multi-titled mentor said the addition of seven-foot center Greg Slaughter in this series could serve as a ‘game changer’ as the former Ateneo slotman was not present in the last finals duel due to an ACL injury
Slaughter, a candidate for Best Player of the Conference, is enjoying his best conference just yet, averaging 14.7 points and 8.8 rebounds in 16 games.
With Slaughter around, Cone admitted his team has the size advantage over the Bolts in the series. Brownlee, LA Tenorio, Japeth Aguilar, Joe Devance and Scottie Thompson are back again in the franchise’s bid for a 25th PBA title.
Reigning Best Import Allen Durham, who is averaging 25.4 points, 20.1 rebounds and 6.8 assists, will be the focus of Ginebra’s defense according to Cone.
“You can’t surely stop him (Durham) maybe you try to contain him, but again it is something that we will do as we go along. We will prepare for now and we will try different match ups. We have Greg (Slaughter), Japeth, Joe and Justin that we can match up with him size wise,” he added.
“But he is a beast, he really is, and I don’t think any one person can guard him. We’ll take him as a team,” he added.
Meralco mentor Norman Black said his squad is eyeing nothing but a crown and finishing second is not an option.
“We have a higher goal in mind and we want to win the championship. We know we are against a tough team and a great coach in the league. At the same time, we have a goal that we want to reach. Let’s see what happens and we are here to win,” said Black, who is aiming for his 12th PBA title.
Black added the addition of Ranidel de Ocampo and Garvo Lanete and the return of Jared Dillinger would give Durham more space to operate.