MANILA, Philippines—Barangay Ginebra could have fallen into a trap of complacency after the Meralco Bolts suffered an injury blow in the 2019 PBA Governors' Cup finals.
The best-of-seven series was tied at one game apiece when Raymond Almazan suffered an injury six minutes into Game 3, and from there, the complexion of the finals changed. Ginebra held off Meralco in Game 3, 92-84, and though Almazan braved a knee injury to play in Game 4, the Gin Kings crushed the Bolts in that contest, 94-72.
Almazan sat out Game 5, and Ginebra overcame a double-digit deficit to post a 105-93 win, and secure the Governors' Cup title for the third time in four years.
Ginebra head coach Tim Cone didn't deny that his squad got some lucky breaks in the series.
"You always say, when you win a championship there's a little bit of luck involved all the time. And for us, it was bad luck for them, and it was a little bit of good luck for us," he said, referring to Almazan's untimely injury.
Almazan had been a game-changer for Meralco in the Governors' Cup. He averaged 14.5 points and 12.09 rebounds in the elimination round, helping the Bolts clinch the second seed.
He formed a tough frontcourt with Allen Durham, and his absence in the finals was costly for Meralco.
"Without Almazan there, we could give more focus to Allen Durham, and it put more pressure on Chris Newsome to step up and hit bigger shots," Cone noted.
"It just created a lot more pressure for that team to perform at a higher level without Raymond there."
But Cone also pointed out that Almazan's injury could have had an impact on the Gin Kings as well.
"I thought our guys did a really good job of staying focused and not suffering a letdown, because siguro they thought it was gonna be easy with Almazan out," he said.
The Gin Kings showed no complacency, however. Instead, they pounced on the Bolts in Game 4, then recovered from a slow start in Game 5, pulled away, and refused to let Meralco get back in the contest.
"They took care of business when they needed to," Cone said in praise of his squad.
While Almazan's injury was something nobody wanted, the Gin Kings could not afford to feel sorry for the Bolts, said Cone.
"You always gotta take advantage of it, because championships don't come around all the time, so you can't feel sorry for the other team," he explained.
"You come around all the time, so you can't feel sorry for the other team. You gotta keep at it, keep going at it, and make sure you secure that win.
"I tip my cap to my players because they really came out and didn't let down because of the injury. Didn't get overconfident. They really came out and continued to battle, and they took it in five games."
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