When Barangay Ginebra head coach Tim Cone said after winning Game 5 on Sunday that he and his Gin Kings didn’t want a Game 7 in their best-of-seven championship series with sister team San Miguel Beer, only a few, including those who believe the title matchup for the PBA Commissioner’s Cup was “scripted,” took him seriously.
On Wednesday in Game 6, the feisty basketball guru came true to his words as he guided the Kings to what looked like an easy 99-73 triumph for the franchise’s 11th crown and his 21st, 16th in conference with imports.
The title-clinching victory belied unfounded belief by some sectors that the series was being manipulated to go the full seven-game route obviously for more income at the gate, which was fortified by the noisy, and boisterous crowd of 20,490 that filled the cavernous Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
Cone and his Kings proved the non-believers wrong, of course, finishing the job with aplomb in denying their sister team anew in their bid for their much-desired Grand Slam.
San Miguel coach Leo Austria and his Beermen are partly to blame though in failing to hand their boss, Ramon S. Ang, RSA to the sports and business sectors, what could have been a sweep of this, the pro-league’s 43rd season.
The Beernmen, in fact, looked they weren’t playing for the championship as they seemed to have abandoned their mission as early as when the horn sounded signaling the start of the opening quarter were they were expected to go all out being at the losing end, 3-2, after five games of the gold medal playoff.
The Beeermen limited the Kings to measly 14 points in that period, but they, too, looked tentative, managing only a slim three-point edge going into the next 12 minutes of play that was no different from the first. The half ended, 38-35, after both teams failed to score more than 21 points each.
Sensing the defending champions had no intention of evening the series to 3-3 and extend the playoff to its full distance, the Kings muzzled their big brothers to measly three points in the third while just played hard enough in the other end with 27 points, not a spectacular accomplishment by any standard.
SMBeer’s Jun Mar Fajardo, who went berserk in the first 24 minutes with17 points, went zero this time thanks to the leech-like defense thrown at him by the much improved Greg Slaughter.
Sentinel Scottie Thompson was also superb swarming all over the court in a double-double 12 points, 13 rebounds performance and five assists to win Finals Most Valuable Player while Slaughter chipped in 13 points and 9 boards.
More surprising were the normally offense-oriented duo of Marcio Lassiter and Chris Ross who both went nil in the entire 48-minute contest.
Lassiter was action for 32 minutes and 27 seconds missing all his 17 attempts from the floor, including seven from beyond the arc. Chris Ross logged 32 minutes and 36 seconds, likewise, muffing all his five attempts.
Instead of creating situations for his teammates, playmaker Alex Cabagnot concentrated on trying to score to no avail missing 12 of 15 attempts in 37 minutes and 29 seconds on the court ad finishing with only six points.
Big Boy Christian Stanhardinger, hyped as the Beermen’s hope for the future was unreliable, too, in his 16-minute or so stint unable to sink all his three tries, hauling down only a couple of rebounds.
As expected, best import Justin Brownlee showed the way to SMB counterpart Ronaldo Balkman on both ends of the court.
Brownlee, limited to 11 points in the first half, erupted for 10 points in the 3rd quarter alone and Ginebra swung a 35-38 halftime deficit to a 62-46 lead heading into the final quarter.
The Kings led the Beermen in field goal percentage, 43.8 percent to 33.98 percent, rebound, 57 to 35. Assists 26-18 steals, 8-5 and blocked shots, 7-5.