MANILA, Philippines – Heading into the 2017 PBA Philippine Cup Finals, Ginebra head coach Tim Cone said the Gin Kings will need to find a way to make the San Miguel Beermen uncomfortable, in order to have a chance against the defending champions.
After five games, it was clear that the Gin Kings were unable to do that consistently. San Miguel Beer dominated Ginebra in the Finals, winning the best-of-seven series in five games on Sunday. In the title clinching 91-85 win on Sunday, they led by as many as 12 points, and were quick to respond every time Ginebra got close.
"They overwhelmed us," Cone said bluntly after the contest. "It just showed how powerful they were. We didn't have any answers for them."
Ginebra's best moment in the series was in Game 2, when they ran out to a huge lead in an out-of-town game in Lucena, even going up by as much as 26 points. However, that contest also served to display San Miguel's strengths. The Beermen rallied in the third quarter, lost Marcio Lassiter to ejection, and June Mar Fajardo to foul trouble. Still, the Gin Kings needed a buzzer-beater from Joe Devance and a near-triple-double from Scottie Thompson in order to win 124-118 in overtime.
The Game 2 loss merely served to fire up San Miguel, and the Beermen thoroughly outplayed the Gin Kings the rest of the series.
Even Cone, the most decorated coach in the PBA, admits he could not find answers to the puzzles that San Miguel presented. The presence of center June Mar Fajardo, in particular, was a source of frustration as they had no way to truly neutralize him.
"We tried to slow the game down. We tried different ways, but we just couldn't find a way to consistently give them problems," Cone rued. "And they're hitting their shots."
"They're a great shooting team, and June Mar is a great equalizer, because you spend so much time giving attention to him, and you lose the shooters," he added. "We tried to do both, and we couldn't get either."
"That's the problem."
Nevertheless, the Gin Kings still overachieved in the Philippine Cup, considering their up-and-down start to the conference and the injuries suffered by their players in the playoffs. Devance, in particular, played through pain nearly all throughout the postseason, needing to get shots of anesthetic just to get on the court.
This is of no comfort to Cone, however, as he lamented their runner-up finish.
"Sure, we overcame a lot," he said. "There is so much to be proud about, but it's hard to be proud after a loss. Wait 24 hours, talk to me again, and I'll be really happy with what we did. It's just hard to react right now."
For more sports coverage, visit the ABS-CBN Sports website.