MANILA, Philippines – Barangay Ginebra took one step closer towards the semifinals of the PBA Philippine Cup after defeating Rain or Shine, 88-80, on Monday evening at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Two days after engaging in a marathon contest that Ginebra won in triple overtime, the Gin Kings needed only 48 minutes to dismiss the Elasto Painters and gain a 1-0 lead in their best-of-3 quarterfinals series.
Joe Devance sparked Ginebra's breakaway midway through the fourth period, then scored a pair of crucial buckets in the final two minutes and 12 seconds to quash Rain or Shine's comeback attempt. Scottie Thompson was spectacular all game long, tallying 14 points, 16 rebounds, and seven assists.
"It wasn't a pretty game," acknowledged Ginebra coach Tim Cone after the game. "But the playoffs aren't pretty."
"We didn't have our Ginebra crowd (tonight), so we had to grind it out today, find our own emotion, find our own grind. I thought the guys did a good job of grinding, making it into a defensive type of game, and taking care of possessions," he also said.
After engaging in a back-and-forth defensive battle last Friday, Ginebra and Rain or Shine again found themselves toe-to-toe on Monday, with the Gin Kings settling for a slim 68-64 lead at the end of three quarters.
The Elasto Painters trimmed the deficit to one point, 69-70, with 8:41 to go off a pull-up jumper by Gabe Norwood, and it appeared as though the game was headed to another cardiac finish.
Devance, however, had other ideas. The veteran forward – playing in just his third game after coming back from a foot injury – drilled a triple and added a floater in transition to make it 75-69 with 7:23 to go, and force Rain or Shine to sue for time.
But the brief break in action did nothing to cool down the Gin Kings. Instead, Japeth Aguilar converted a lay-up, then scored off a miss by LA Tenorio. Sol Mercado then knocked down a three-pointer of his own to cap a 12-0 Ginebra blast that gave them control of the game, 82-69, with 4:53 to go.
"Luckily, we had that stretch in the fourth quarter," said Cone. "And then we hung on."
The Elasto Painters came as close as seven points, 75-82, with 2:42 left. But Ginebra caught a big break when Beau Belga, in an attempt to save the ball from going out of bounds, fired it directly to Devance who responded by making an open lay-up for an 84-75 count with 2:12 to go.
After Ed Daquioag made three free throws off an ill-advised foul by Aguilar, Devance again came to Ginebra's rescue as he collared an offensive rebound following a miss by Aguilar, and converted another lay-up.
Rain or Shine would not threaten from that point on.
Devance finished with 15 points, nine of which came in the fourth frame. LA Tenorio added 16 points, and Mercado finished with 13.
Belga led Rain or Shine with 17 points, and Daquioag added 16 markers. But the Elasto Painters made only 38.2% of their attempts from the field, and gave up 11 three-pointers to the Gin Kings.
Game 2 of the best-of-3 series is on Wednesday at the Araneta Coliseum.
GINEBRA 88 — Tenorio 16, Devance 15, J. Aguilar 14, Thompson 14, Mercado 13, Ferrer 6, Mariano 6, Cruz 4, R. Aguilar 0, Caguioa 0.
RAIN OR SHINE 80 — Belga 17, Daquioag 16, Ahanmisi 10, Ponferrada 9, Nambatac 8, Trollano 6, Washington 5, Norwood 4, Tiu 3, Maiquez 2, Almazan 0, Borboran 0.
Quarters: 21-23, 44-43, 68-64, 88-80.
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