MANILA, Philippines -- Barangay Ginebra is the "slight underdog" against TNT Tropang Giga in their 2020 PBA Philippine Cup Finals series, says head coach Tim Cone after the two squads arranged a best-of-seven clash for the title.
This, even though Ginebra claimed an 85-79 win in their lone elimination round encounter on November 6, wherein Stanley Pringle put up 28 points and 12 rebounds.
"They were the favorite team, I think, coming into this bubble. I think that they showed that from the very beginning," said Cone on Friday, after they wrapped up a tough five-game semis series against the Meralco Bolts.
"I don't think anybody thinks anything less of them. They'll think they're the favorites. And I think we're going in as slight underdogs," he added.
This will be in contrast to their series against Meralco, said Cone, wherein they were "a little bit favored" against the Bolts. Even with that, the Gin Kings needed a buzzer-beating triple from Scottie Thompson in Game 5 to oust Meralco, 83-80.
Ginebra had a 2-1 lead in their best-of-five series against the Bolts but failed to close them out in Game 4, and then trailed by nine points in Game 5 before taking control late in the game. Meralco nearly forced overtime thanks to a clutch three-pointer by veteran forward Reynel Hugnatan, but Thompson's shot for the ages broke the Bolts' hearts yet again.
After that grueling series, Cone expects yet another tough stretch against a "well-coached" TNT squad that is playing "great basketball."
"And they've got Jayson," Cone also said of TNT, referring to veteran point guard Jayson Castro who has remained the talisman of the Tropang Giga even as new stars emerged for the team.
Castro has taken a bit of backseat this conference, with Roger Pogoy and Ray Parks taking charge for the team. Against Phoenix Super LPG in the semifinals, Castro averaged just 14.6 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 4.6 assists while Parks served as their top option on offense.
Yet Cone stresses that Castro remains "a difference-maker" for TNT, and he anticipates that the Gin Kings' defense will still focus on the man known as "The Blur."
"We had a really hard time trying to control Chris Newsome in this series," he said of Meralco's combo-forward. "He played a hell of a series."
"That scares us a little bit because you know, as great as Chris is, Jayson takes it to another level," Cone pointed out. "So hopefully, we can try to figure out a way to control him."
"Talk 'N Text is gonna be really hard."
Ginebra is seeking its first All-Filipino crown since the 2006-07 season, while TNT last won the Philippine Cup in the 2012-13 season.
The two squads contested the 2004-05 All-Filipino Cup, with Ginebra winning the series in six games behind eventual Finals MVP Eric Menk.