Barangay Ginebra struggled through the first 40 minutes before getting into the groove to zoom to a 96-82 win over Blackwater that bolstered the Gins Kings’ Top Two quest in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup eliminations at the Alonte Sports Arena in Binan, Laguna Friday night.
Justin Brownlee, LA Tenorio, Mark Caguioa and Sol Mercado got the team to a blazing windup as the Gin Kings weathered the Elite’s tough resistance and inched closer to clinching a twice-to-beat incentive in the quarterfinals with a 7-2 win-loss card.
Blackwater, meanwhile, eventually bombed out of playoff race with an eighth loss against only two wins.
The Kings were holding a precarious 67-65 lead early in the fourth before hitting their strides and coming through with a decisive closing flurry.
“We wanted to gather rhythm in the first half but we just couldn’t do it. Then we put a lot of ball pressure and we got going,” said Brownlee.
Despite a little less numbers, the Ginebra import won his personal battle with Blackwater counterpart Greg Smith in the end, helping through the Kings in the absence of injury-hit top forward Joe Devance.
“Anything can happen in every game. In this game without Joe (Devance), it’s about the next man up mentality of coach Tim Cone. And a lot of guys stepped up and played well,” said Brownlee.
Brownlee had an alarming long scoreless spell in the third period but regained his touch to lead the way for the Kings in the payoff quarter.
He finished with 35 points, 14 rebounds and five assists against five turnovers.
Tenorio and Japeth Aguilar helped pick up the slack in the absence of Devance, with the two combining for 32 points, 13 rebounds and five assists.
The Elite dragged the Kings to a battle in the first three quarters, even leading by eight at 57-49 late in the third.
That’s before Brownlee scored his first basket in the second half to spark a run that shoved Ginebra ahead, 65-62, going into the final canto.
Then Tenorio, Caguioa and Mercado joined the fray.
Tenorio fired bombs from afar while Caguioa and Mercado struck on transition offense as the Kings went on a rampage and blew the game open at 87-73.
Though dropping two of their last three games, the San Miguel Beermen are optimistic they can get back on track and clinch a twice-to-beat incentive in the quarterfinals of the PBA Commissioner’s Cup.
“We’re still in contention for the Top Two spot. We’re still in a good position to hit our goal,” said SMB coach Leo Austria.
The Beermen pursue their goal as they tangle with the struggling Alaska Milk side in a Petron Blaze Saturday Special at the Ynares Sports Center in Antipolo.
Austria said they will take to heart their loss to Barangay Ginebra the last time out as they press their own bid in their spirited five-way rumble for the Top Two with the Gin Kings, the Star Hotshots, the Meralco Bolts and the TNT KaTropa Texters.
“We will treat that as a lesson for us, a wake-up call for us,” said Austria of their 99-107 defeat at the hands of the Kings Sunday.
The Beermen automatically earn a Top Two finish and the win-once bonus in the quarters with a sweep of their last three games against the Aces, the Blackwater Elite and the GlobalPort Batang Pier.
But first, Austria wants his team to focus on the task at hand versus Alaska, a very dangerous team coming from five straight losses.
Alaska, at seventh place with a 4-5 slate, is aching to snap out of the rut and put some distance against pursuers Phoenix (4-6) and GlobalPort (3-6).
The Aces’ main concern is how to recall their deadly defensive game.
Coach Alex Compton aired this concern before their game against the NLEX Road Warriors. Yet, they didn’t improve and went down with a 92-100 loss to the erstwhile winless NLEX squad.
“We are not having a problem scoring the ball, but our defense has been porous, may mga butas-butas,” rued Compton.
“The last two years, by most metrics, we’ve been the best team in a conference in the whole PBA defensively, so it’s a dramatic drop that we need to do something about to really have a shot,” Compton pointed out.
The Aces got off to a rousing 4-0 start in the conference before going on a woeful stretch where they dropped all their last five games.
They’re now hard pressed to win their last two games to secure a playoff berth.
Losing is certainly not an option for Phoenix Petroleum as it plays its last game in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup elimination round versus NLEX at the Ynares Sports Center in Antipolo on Saturday.
A win could give the Fuel Masters an outright playoff entry but a loss could mean elimination from further contention.
The Fuel Masters are hard-pressed to win the 3 p.m. contest where the Road Warriors set out with no pressure at all since they’ve long been out of the playoff race.
“Nasa amin lahat ng pressure,” said Phoenix coach Ariel Vanguardia, hoping his troops come in proper mindset in facing a team determined to end their stint in the tourney on a winning note.
“We want to exit with some pride,” said NLEX coach Yeng Guiao.
The Road Warriors have snapped a long 13-game losing skein from last conference, winning their last game in style versus the Alaska Milk Aces, 100-92.
“Winning the game without an import in the last five minutes showed there’s a new resolve in our team. They want to prove themselves. They want to show we’re improving. We’re struggling, but we’re learning our lessons and we’ll bring them in the next conference,” said Guiao.
And the fiery NLEX mentor insists their last game in this conference is part of their learning process for the next tourney.
That’s a fair warning to the Fuel Masters.
Phoenix has found itself in a tougher bind in dropping a 121-122 loss in overtime to Mahindra last Sunday.
TERRENCE Romeo announced his return for GlobalPort by scoring a game-high 26 points and boosting his team to a 107-101 win over Rain or Shine Friday that kept the Batang Pier in the PBA Commissioner\'s Cup playoff race at the Alonte Sports Arena in Binan, Laguna.
Ten of Romeo\'s points came after GlobalPort fell behind by 86-94 and the man who missed two games due to his Gilas commitments capped his heroics with a clutch triple and two free throws that made it 103-98, only 53 seconds left.
Romeo also wound up with seven assists and five boards with his scoring highlighted by a 4-for-10 three-point shooting.
Much like what they did in a 94-86 shocker over Meralco, new recruits Sean Anthony and Brad Guinto chipped in their ample share with Anthony converting off a tough drive that pegged a 105-101 count and the latter sealing the count with two charities.
Justin Harper bucked foul trouble to finish with 19 points and 10 boards while Stanley Pringle and Anthony wound up with 15 points each as GlobalPort notched its fourth win in 10 games to tie idle Phoenix at eighth.
The Fuel Masters wind up their elimination round assignment against NLEX Saturday and the Batang Pier still have to take on San Miguel Beer on Friday.
Should GlobalPort and Phoenix remain tied and no one else catches up with them they would play off for the last slot in the quarterfinals.
The loss, its fifth in 10 games, jeopardized Rain or Shine\'s bid to hang on among the top six as its lead over Alaska dwindled to just half a game.
The Elasto Painters could hang on to at least No. 6 should they win over TNT KaTropa on Sunday or, should they lose, be faced with a twice-to-win handicap over a top two team in the next round.
Duke Crews finished with 23 points and 17 rebounds while former two-time MVP James Yap showed flashes of his old brilliance with 22 markers. Jericho Cruz added 14 points and Jeff Chan and Raymond Almazan, himself a returnee from Gilas, 10 each.
But Rain or Shine could not sustain the fire that saw it fight back from an early 16-point deficit and visibly struggled after taking a 95-88 lead into the final 4:28 of the game.
Harper committed two fouls within 17 seconds for a total of five and had to be taken out starting at the 6:08 mark of the third. He returned at the final 5:01 mark and promptly made his presence felt with his third triple of the game, followed by a similar shot from deep by Romeo that sparked GlobalPort\'s most decisive charge.
Rain or Shine simply took some time pouncing on the opening created by Harper\'s long benching and it took a Yap triple to ignite a 16-2 run that razed the E-Painters\' 78-84 deficit and put them ahead 94-86, 5:15 to go.
Prior to that stretch the Batang Pier locals held their ground against Crews and the rest of Rain or Shine and GlobalPort went into the fourth with a 75-73 edge, which was stretched by Guinto, Von Pessumal and Mike Cortez.
It was basically a nip-and-tuck affair in the two middle quarters.
Anthony scored 10 of his 11 first half points in a 15-0 run that gave GlobalPort a 27-14 lead at the end of the first quarter and as much as a 30-14 spread.
In that four-minute span, the E-Painters committed six turnovers and went 0-for-2 from the floor.
Rain or Shine would not wilt, however, with Yap snapping the team out of its drought by burying a triple and adding seven more points to spark and fuel a fightback that saw the E-Painters wrest back the lead at 42-40.
Harper and Romeo then hooked up and made it a 48-44 Batang Pier lead at the half.
Barangay Ginebra takes top honors in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup eliminations without complications with a sweep of its last three games.
Winning two of those three games entitles the Gin Kings of a shot at the Top Two and a twice-to-beat incentive in the quarterfinals.
So the stakes are high as the Gin Kings clash with the Blackwater Elite Friday at the Alonte Sports Arena in Binan, Laguna.
Game time is at 7 p.m. where Blackwater, on the other hand, will come out fighting for dear life.
Justin Brownlee and his teammates bolstered their bid for a Top Two finish as they subdued Charles Rhodes and the San Miguel Beermen, 107-99, in their critical matchup Sunday at the MOA Arena.
The Star Hotshots (8-2), the Meralco Bolts (7-3) and the TNT KaTropa Texters (7-3) are the other teams slugging it out for the twice-to-beat incentive in the playoffs.
The Kings have also beaten the Hotshots, 113-98, and the Texters, 107-89. This means Ginebra would have a big edge in quotient in case they figure in a tie for first and second spots.
Tournament rules call for a playoff match only in logjams at eighth place.
The Gin Kings ride the momentum of their stirring eight-point triumph over the Beermen in going up against the Elite.
Coach Tim Cone, however, said they can’t take for the Elite for granted especially as Blackwater is fighting for survival.
Greg Smith and his teammates need to sweep their last two games against Ginebra and San Miguel Beer for a possible playoff crack at the eighth and last playoff seat.
But a win each by Alaska Milk (4-5) and Phoenix Petroleum (4-6) automatically dashes the Elite’s playoff hopes.
Coming from a long 11-day break, the Gin Kings blew hot and cold before eventually yielding to the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters, 112-118, on May 19.
Two nights later, the Gin Kings sprang back with their crucial disposal of the Beermen.