A misfiring Barangay Ginebra found a way to orchestrate its signature come-from-behind charge and snatch Game 3 of the PBA Commissioner’s Cup Finals amid a fantastic atmosphere on Wednesday at Mall of Asia Arena.
“We were just looking for a spark,” said coach Tim Cone as the Gin Kings came alive with a stunning windup that beat the Bay Area Dragons, 89-82, for a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.
Chances of starting the calendar year on the right note was bleak as Ginebra’s offense sputtered for 44 minutes and was staring at a 79-72 deficit until Cone’s main weapons came alive.
Justin Brownlee made a pair of crucial shots, Scottie Thompson’s putback broke a 79-all tie with less than 90 seconds to go, then found Jamie Malonzo for a dagger three that made it a five-point advantage.
“Justin upped his motor and Scottie went crazy and got a couple of unbelievable rebounds and we got on a roll. The crowd kept feeding us and feeding us,” Cone said.
A huge part of the 15,004 fans were in ecstasy after Malonzo’s triple made it 84-79 with 50.4 seconds to go as the arena was filled with familiar rock anthems like Orange and Lemons’ “Pinoy Ako” and Bamboo’s “Noypi,” songs usually played during national team home matches or multisport events held on home soil.
“I experienced it all the time when I was playing against Ginebra. And that’s the way it is when Ginebra always hits the floor,” said Cone. “And it’s a tough atmosphere. You feel like the crowd’s against you, the referees are against you.
“And I experienced that for [many] years. To be on the other side, and feel that energy and knowing that it’s for you rather than against you, I love being a part of it,” added Cone, whose Gin Kings are two wins from giving their loyal multitude a reason to celebrate again.
Game 4 is set on Friday at the same venue in what could be the virtual decider of the series pitting the country’s most popular team against the visitors from Hong Kong.
The subplot going into the 5:45 p.m. meeting is a possible import switch for Bay Area after Andrew Nicholson hurt his left leg late in the fourth quarter.
Nicholson left the venue on a wheelchair, and the injury has raised the prospect of Bay Area coach Brian Goorjian possibly tapping Myles Powell back.
Powell, who has not lost in eight appearances, can return under arrangements the Dragons made with the league when it decided to take part as a guest participant in the midseason conference.
The injury of its top big man doubly hurt the Dragons after spending most of the series resumption following the New Year’s Day break on top, with 14 as their biggest lead.
Glen Yang and Kobey Lam were those that stepped up for Bay Area with their plays mostly on the offensive end, but they and the rest of the team succumbed to Ginebra’s rally in the dying minutes.
Brownlee’s 34 points, despite a poor nine-of-24 shooting, topped Ginebra on the statsheet while Thompson had 14 points, 10 rebounds, four assists and four steals.
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