MANILA, Philippines -- Barangay Ginebra coach Tim Cone expects Meralco to come out guns blazing in Game 4 of their 2020 PBA Philippine Cup semifinal series, as the Bolts are playing with their backs against the wall.
Ginebra took a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five series last Sunday, thanks to a big first quarter that allowed them to weather Meralco's repeated rallies for a 91-84 win.
Yet being on the brink of a finals appearance is no source of comfort for Cone. Indeed, it only makes him all the more cautious as he anticipates a strong response from the Bolts.
"It's gonna be really hard to close them out," Cone said after Sunday's triumph. "They've got a great coach over there who's also been to these kinds of wars and been in this situation. And he's got a young, hungry core that's listening to him and playing for him."
The Bolts are in the midst of a breakthrough campaign, as they made it to the playoffs of the All-Filipino conference for the first time in five years. They also own the distinction of ousting defending champion San Miguel in the quarterfinal, paving the way for their semis encounter with Ginebra.
Meralco coach Norman Black has made it clear that they are determined to keep their run going until the finals, but once again a familiar foe stands in their way. Ginebra has won its past three series against the Bolts -- all of which came in the finals of the PBA Governors' Cup.
Cone is aware that the Bolts will be playing desperate basketball come Game 4, and the Gin Kings will have to match their fire.
"It really comes from being able to lift your intensity level to the intensity level of the other team because they are desperate now – they have to win," he pointed out.
"For us, we have a cushion, you know, and we can be parang… we can be a little bit kampante," he said.
"That's what we have to fight as coaches – to make sure that our guys don't fall into that trap. But it's a human nature – trap – and it's very, very difficult not to fall into it," he added.
Cone is thus expecting a difficult game on Wednesday afternoon at the Angeles University Foundation Gym in Angeles City.
The Bolts have already shown that they can bounce back from a loss in this series. After dropping Game 1, 96-79, they came back to rout Ginebra in Game 2, 95-77.
"The hardest game to win in a series is the closeout game," said Cone. "The other group is always so desperate, and it's hard to meet their intensity."