DEFENSE seemed to be the name of the game that coaches of the opposing teams in the PBA Governors’ Cup Final series have talked much about it after splitting the first two games.
“We hang our hat on our defense,” said Ginebra coach Tim Cone, stressing that while offense may vary from game to game, defense is something that a team has to be constant at.
One nice defensive ploy that Cone has adopted is assigning a bemuscled but fleet-footed Sol Mercado against Meralco’s Allen Durham during Game 2.
The strategy paid off as Mercado went unrelenting in going after the hard-working Meralco import whom he limited to just 22 points when the Gin Kings rebounded from a Game 1 debacle with a well-earned win in the Game 2 thriller, 82-79, last Sunday.
Cone, in the finals for 30th time and first with the Gin Kings, admitted he had indeed changed the matchups in Game 2, and Mercado’s peskiness effectively limited Durham’s ‘touches’ in a game watched by more than 18,000 fans at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
No one is sure whether Cone would stick to the same strategy on Mercado taking care of Durham when they collide at 7 tonight in Game 3 of the best-of-7 Final series also set at the Big Dome.
Cone himself had hinted Meralco coach Norman Black is going to resolve that concern.
“Norman’s gonna figure out things to do for him (Mercado). Now the ball’s in their court, they have to make the adjustments,” said Cone, visibly impressed after the Gin Kings broke the Bolts’ momentum in Game 2.
“We were unfortunate to lose Game 1 but in many ways we’re lucky to win Game 2. Now the winner of Game 3 will be in a position to dictate the rest of the season,” said Cone, looking for his 19th title in the PBA and first with the Gin Kings.
“That makes Game 3 crucial to both teams,” added Cone.
Black is also talking defense in much the same breath, and the American mentor who has authored 11 titles to his credit in the three teams he handled in the past, is training the Bolts’ gun on Justine Brownlee as well as in rebounding department.
“Defenisvely, we must find a way to slow down Brownlee. Rebounding will once again be a big key to the game,” said Black, who is looking to match the Gin Kings’ sagging defense.
Brownlee, whom Durham defeated in the best import award for the season-ending conference, got his turn to shine for the Gin Kings in Game 2 after coming away with 32 points, 12 rebounds, three assists and three steals.
“It is down to best-of-5 so getting win no. 2 is very important. Offensively we must do a better job of spacing the floor to give Durham more room to move versus their sagging defense,” said Black.