MANILA, Philippines -- Beating Meralco in the first game of their best-of-five series in the 2020 PBA Philippine Cup semifinals has only made Barangay Ginebra coach Tim Cone all the more wary of the Bolts.
A well-rested Ginebra squad pounced on Meralco on Wednesday night, pulling away at the half for a 96-79 victory. Six players scored in double-digits for Cone, with Stanley Pringle putting up 19 points and Scottie Thompson coming close to a triple-double with 13 points, nine rebounds, and eight assists.
A few extra days of rest served the Gin Kings well, Cone admitted. Ginebra took care of business in the quarterfinals early, beating Rain or Shine last November 13. Meralco, however, had to overcome a twice-to-beat disadvantage against San Miguel and only got the job done last Sunday.
"In the meantime, we were able to rest and we were able to practice," said Cone. "So you know, obviously it was an advantage for us and I'm glad our guys took advantage of it and came out and played a good game."
The win continued Ginebra's dominance over the Bolts this year. The Gin Kings claimed their lone elimination round encounter, 105-91, aside from beating Meralco in five games in the finals of the PBA Governors' Cup in January.
Yet for Cone, a 1-0 lead over a team as dangerous as Meralco is no source of comfort. Instead, it brings to mind one of their recent playoff series against a similarly dangerous Magnolia team, where they blew an early advantage in the series.
"The only thing I'm thinking about right now, is I remember we went into a Magnolia series a year or two ago, and we were favored and we won Game 1," he recalled.
"We were all sitting nice and pretty and then Magnolia swept us three games in a row and went on to play San Miguel in the championship," he added.
Cone is likely referring to their quarterfinal series against the Hotshots in the 2019 edition of the All-Filipino Cup, where the third-seeded Gin Kings figured in a best-of-3 series against the sixth-seeded Hotshots.
Ginebra won the first game comfortably, 86-75, only for the Hotshots to dominate them in the next two games behind superb performances from Ian Sangalang and Paul Lee.
"That's fresh in my mind, that's fresh in our mind, our collective minds," said Cone. "This game is nice to get, but we've been in this situation before."
Cone stressed that they cannot relax against a Meralco team that is "on a mission." The Bolts are making their first playoff appearance in the Philippine Cup in five years, and coach Norman Black has made no secret of their intent to go all the way to the finals.
"We played a really, really excellent game tonight," said Cone. "(But) we aren't that good and they aren't that bad."
"So we're going to see a much better Game 2, that's for darn sure," he predicted.
Game 2 of the best-of-five series is on Friday, still at the Angeles University Foundation Gym in Angeles City, Pampanga.