Tim Cone has been in the same situation so many times in his storied career and in a couple of occasions, he did not end up successful.
The Barangay Ginebra San Miguel mentor knows that holding a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven championship series is not a guarantee of sure win in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) and he had the experience to prove it.
The Gin Kings gun for a commanding 3-0 lead with another win against Meralco in Game 3 of their finals showdown today at the Araneta Coliseum.
And though they won the first two games in impressive fashions, Cone expects the Bolts to bring their do-or-die mentality in their 7 p.m. encounter as the latter tries to break the ice and avoid falling to a 0-3 deficit.
“They (Meralco) have a lot of more to give and more punches to throw. We will see that in Game 3 and we can’t get too excited about Game 2. I’ve been in this series before where I led 2-0 and lost it. So, we can’t get comfortable because it happened to me,” said Cone.
In 2002 Governors’ Cup finals, Cone’s Alaska was also 2-0 up against Purefoods (now Star) and the young mentor Ryan Gregorio but still lost the series, 3-4.
Seven years later, his Aces won the first two games of the 2009 Philippine Cup finals against TNT and Chot Reyes but again, fall short and yielded a 4-3 series win to the KaTropa.
“We haven’t achieved anything yet and we have to be ready against them. For sure, Meralco will take advantage of our weaknesses in our last game. I think they will have a do-or-die mentality and they will find ways to win (in Game 3) so we must stop them,” said Ginebra guard and Game 2 hero LA Tenorio.
Tenorio had 10 of his 14 points in the final quarter of Game 2 and made a couple of clutch plays to help the Kings in their 86-76 come-from-behind win.
Justin Brownlee, who lost to Allen Durham for the Best Import award for the second straight time, also dished out an all-around game with 19 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists in Game 2.
Meralco head coach Norman Black, despite trailing 0-2, seems not alarmed with the situation and he’s confident the Bolts can get back in the series but they must start now by winning Game 3.
He even mentioned the “Beeracle” of San Miguel in the 2016 Philippine Cup finals against Alaska where the former rallied from a 0-3 deficit and won the title.
“We know it (winning the title) is still possible because they (San Miguel Beer) did it and that’s the first time. Nothing is impossible,” said Black.
“Our motivation is just to take one game at a time right now, try to win the next game and then tie the series. So, until they win four games, we’re just here to continue fighting,” he added.
Durham had another solid Game 2 outing with 25 points, 22 rebounds and seven assists but the lack of local support took the toll on the Bolts.