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Defending Brownlee is a challenge for Zhu

MISSION IMPOSSIBLE Zhu Songwei (right) of Bay Area has been tasked to defend Justin Brownlee of Barangay Ginebra in their PBA Commissioner’s Cup Finals series. PBA IMAGE

BAY Area forward Zhu Songwei knows his hands are full guarding Barangay Ginebra's resident import Justin Brownlee in the 2022-23 PBA Commissioner's Cup Finals.

The 6'9″ Chinese forward earned three quick fouls during the opening quarter in Game 1, which eventually saw the Gin Kings score a runaway 96-81 win against the Dragons on Christmas Day.

Zhu struggled to find his range in the series-opening game, scoring just 12 points on 4-of-13 shooting. He managed to grab five rebounds, but he also turned the ball over four times in 31.2 minutes of play.

In Game 2, though, Zhu managed to adjust well. This time, he exploded for 25 points, six assists and five rebounds and earned Best Player honors as he helped Bay Area clobber Ginebra 99-82 to level the series at one win apiece.

While he's expected to contribute on offense to support Canadian import Andrew Nicholson, Zhu said everything starts on defense if they want to bag the Commissioner's Cup championship.

“Everything starts from the defensive end,” Zhu said through an interpreter. “As a player, I want to make sure I play good defense then everything will go to the defensive end.”

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Defensively though, it's just impossible for him to personally put the clamps on Brownlee, who is on a mission to win a sixth league title as Ginebra's import.

Through the first two games of the best-of-seven title series, the 34-year-old Brownlee logged in averages of 30 points, 12 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 2.0 blocks.

The former St. John's standout also had seven three-pointers in Game 2 as he tried to will the Gin Kings back on his own as majority of the Ginebra locals struggled to get their shooting form, en route to the team's 17-point loss.

“It's hard,” Zhu said, admitting how difficult it is for him to defend Brownlee in the title series. “But also, I'm looking to get better in the matchup. I'm comfortable with this matchup.”

Not minding the attention he's getting, the 26-year-old former Chinese Basketball Association big man intends to stay focused on the team's title bid while having some down time during the New Year's break.

“We just want to stay locked in, keep executing on the floor and play like what we've been working on in our practice,” explained the Bay Area forward, who saw action for the Sichuan Blue Whales in the CBA, before signing up with Bay Area a few months back.

Game 3 of the PBA Finals is on January 4 at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.

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