Coach Tim Cone liked the way Barangay Ginebra San Miguel performed in Game 4 of the PBA Philippine Cup Finals that he believes that it was by far the best he ever saw since the bubble began two months ago.
“I really felt we played the best game of the whole bubble,” Cone said after Ginebra overcame TNT’s late charge to pull off a 98-88 win at the Angeles University Foundation Sports and Cultural Center and move on the cusp of capturing the All-Filipino crown.
Two three-pointers by LA Tenorio down the stretch enabled Ginebra to preserve the victory after foiling a TNT comeback by the hot-shooting of RR Pogoy.
Saved for the near meltdown after leading by a high of 18 early in the fourth quarter, Ginebra looked sharp for most of the way, something that was not the case in the first three games of the best-of-seven affair when it had to counter TNT’s attack.
Acknowledging how Ginebra felt tired during an 88-67 defeat the last time in which TNT took control after trailing in the first quarter, Cone and his coaching staff decided against holding practice on Saturday and used the morning of Game 4 to have an hour-long walkthrough.
“I felt we played well in the first quarter, and then we looked tired the rest of the game,” he said. “So, we just decided to give them extended time in terms of recovery.”
While there were concerns of over-fatigued, Ginebra was able to control the tempo of the contest with almost everyone Cone inserted making plays on both ends.
Veterans Joe Devance and Jared Dillinger made valuable contributions as starters, Prince Caperal logged most of Ginebra’s offensive rebounds in the second quarter that resulted in second chance points and a late run before halftime spilled in the third behind Tenorio.
Pringle struggled from the field anew but his baskets in the third and fourth enabled Ginebra to keep a big lead that TNT attempted to erase while Japeth Aguilar was integral on offense and defense as evident with his 22-point, nine-rebound, two-block showing.
Tenorio finished with 22 points in his highest-scoring game of the Finals. His threes late countered the same number of rainbow shots Pogoy made that put TNT within three a couple of times.
TNT rallied despite the absence of Ray Parks Jr. (calf) for the third straight game and losing Castro for various injuries, including bone spurs on his left knee that forced him to sit the rest of Game 4 during the third period.
“Even though we played the best game of the whole bubble, it was just barely enough to beat TNT,” said Cone. “But this is our best game of the series, by far, and I think the best game of the conference. We hit big shots all night. We made plays, we made defensive plays. Held the lead for the most part before they made their run.
“But I thought we did play well tonight. I hope we can carry it into Wednesday (Game 5),” he added.