• Streaking Ginebra eyes series lead vs Star

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    Barangay Ginebra San Miguel Gin Kings definitely have the momentum going into the critical Game 5 of their best-of-seven semifinals series against Star Hotshots at 7 p.m. tonight in the Philippine Basketball Association Season 42 Philippine Cup at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.

    Winners of their last two games, the Gin Kings hope to claim their first series lead against the Hotshots.

    The crucial match will see the winner getting a 3-2 lead and putting its one foot inside the best-of-seven championship series.

    Solomon Mercado of Ginebra defends the ball against Paul Lee of Star Hotshots during Game 4 of the best-of-seven semifinals of the Philippine Basketball Association Season 42 Philippine Cup at the Araneta Coliseum on Wednesday. PHOTO BY RENE H. DILAN

    Ginebra’s Grand Slam coach Tim Cone of Ginebra said the biggest challenge heading into Game 5 is how to sustain the team’s energy as fatigue could catch them anytime now.

    “Six games in 11 days and every one has been tough,” said Cone, referring to the team’s path to the semis that included two hard-fought quarterfinal matches against the seed Alaska Aces squad.

    “There was no easy game, win or lose. It makes us very weary, and I think the big key for us is trying to continue finding energy to battle their pressure and the way they are playing and the energy of Ping (Pingris) and (Jio) Jalalon,” he added. “That’s our battle going into Game 5, trying to find and sustain energy.”

    After losing Game 1 (74-78) and Game 2 (89-91), the Gin Kings tied the series with impressive wins in Game 3 (73-62) and Game 4 (93-86).

    Like in the previous matches, Cone expects Game 5 to be a defensive battle and they need to keep their poise against the young Star five.

    “Well, it’s not going to be any different from the last four games. It’s going to come down to stretch plays as both teams are defending really well,” Cone said.

    “We haven’t found anything that’s written in stone for us that we know that works. So we are still searching also to find ways. If we don’t defend, they will defend so we have to keep up with them defensively.”

    Jervy Cruz was a revelation in Game 4 for the Gin Kings with 21 points, providing spark off the bench.

    Hotshots head coach Chito Victolero rued the poor officiating in Game 4 and admitted that took the toll on them as his players lost composure in the end.

    “We just have to stay together. We have to maintain our positive attitude. At the start of the series, I’m expecting it will be tough. Now it’s a best of three and we’re 2-2. It’s still good for us. It’s about composure now,” said Victolero.

    Paul Lee was absent in the Star’s offensive scheme in the last two games as he was held down to single digits in Games 3 (seven points) and 4 (nine), thanks to the defense of Ginebra led by Solomon Mercado.

    “It’s tough, really tough (Ginebra’s defense), we have to work together and contribute,” said Lee.

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