The Barangay Ginebra Kings turned their game on just in time to overcome a hard-fighting GlobalPort squad, 104-97, at the resumption of the PBA Philippine Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum last night.
"That's what teams coming from a championship do. They sleepwalk through the first three quarters, just turn on and try to win down the stretch," said Ginebra head coach Tim Cone.
"They feel they can just show up and win. They don't really play until they really have to," Cone added. "I'm disturbed. I think we can do away with that. This is something we have to get better at. We have to fire away right away."
But barely two months after retaining the Philippine Cup crown, the Kings seemed to have yet to get over with the championship hangover.
The Kings played catch-up basketball majority of the way, needing a 9-1 closing spurt to steal the game away from the Batang Pier.
Ginebra thus caught up with San Miguel Beer in the lead at 2-0 while keeping GlobalPort winless in two starts.
The Kings banked on the clutch baskets by Japeth Aguilar, Aljon Mariano, Scottie Thompson and Greg Slaughter in the last two minutes to avoid what could have been an upset.
The Kings were barely ahead by one at 98-97 before Mariano, Thompson and Slaughter connected with the baskets they needed to make.
Aguilar paced Ginebra with 21 points, including a slam and a three-point play that pushed the Kings ahead at 98-96 with time down to 2:21.
After a charity by Stanley Pringle to cap a 23-point game, Mariano, Thompson and Slaughter combined for Ginebra's winning closing attack that preserved LA Tenorio's milestone game.
In issuing seven assists, Tenorio moved up to No. 15 in the league's all-time ladder with 2,464. Relegated to No. 16 is Gerry Esplana with 2459.
Tenorio also laced his performance in the night with three triples and a total of 17 points on top of five rebounds and two steals against five turnovers.
Aguilar, Slaughter, Thompson, Mariano and Jervy Cruz had their own solid all-around numbers in the continued absence of Joe Devance and Sol Mercado.
Aguilar collected 21 points, nine rebounds and four assists, Slaughter 18 markers and nine boards, Thompson 11 rebounds, nine points and eight assists, Mariano 11 points, five rebounds and one assist while Cruz had 11 boards, 10 markers and four dish-offs.
GlobalPort pushed Ginebra hard largely behind the big games of Sean Anthony (29 points) and Pringle (23 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds).
"There's no doubt we missed Joe (Devance) and Sol (Mercado). Joe could have settled us down where he's good at. And we needed the defense of Sol for Anthony and Pringle," said Cone.*pba.com
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