MANILA, Philippines – In just his third game back for Barangay Ginebra, versatile big man Joe Devance came through with a terrific performance to lift the Gin Kings to victory over Rain or Shine in the quarterfinals.
With the Elasto Painters breathing down their necks, Devance sparked a crucial 12-0 run that allowed Ginebra to break the game open. And when Rain or Shine threatened late, he converted two clutch lay-ups that squashed their hopes of a comeback. Ginebra went on to take an 88-80 win in Game 1 of their best-of-3 series.
Devance finished with 15 points, four rebounds, and five assists – solid numbers for a player who missed most of the All-Filipino Conference after recovering from a foot injury. This came on the heels of his 15-point, 13-rebound outing in Ginebra's triple-overtime win over the same Rain or Shine team just last Friday.
"My knees are hurting a bit again," Devance said after the game, which brought them one step closer to the Philippine Cup semifinals. "But I just try to do whatever I can to help the team, so whatever it takes."
According to Devance, he is working extra hard to regain peak fitness, after having been on the shelf for over three months.
"I'm kind of behind on everything," he admitted.
"I've been out for so long, and then I get back, and it's already playoff time. So I try to put a little bit of pressure on myself to hurry up and get back, and get a hundred percent better," he added.
"It's a little hard, though."
Devance's hope is that as they progress in the playoffs, he can continue to get better and better, and work himself back into game shape.
"I'm just hoping we can kind of grind out wins, so that each day that passes, I just get a little better," he explained.
"I'm hoping we can get this next game, just to give me more time to get back in shape, get my knees right, get my legs right. So we'll see," he added.
"I'm getting better each and every day so just gotta keep grinding out wins to give me more time."
Devance and Ginebra return to action on Wednesday at the Araneta Coliseum, where they will try to eliminate the Elasto Painters and advance to the semifinals.
"It's going to be a battle," Devance predicted. "It's a great Rain or Shine team, those guys are talented, and they're playing well."
"Hopefully we can get this next game and see what happens," he added.
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