The opening page of what is expected to be another epic chapter to the storied Manila Clasico rivalry definitely lived up to the billing.
The good-sized crowd was left sitting at the edge of their seats up until the final second as Barangay Ginebra San Miguel squeezed past Magnolia, 87-84, to draw first blood in the Game 1 of their best-of-five semifinals series in the 2022 PBA Commissioner’s Cup at the PhilSports Arena on Wednesday, Dec. 14.
Despite playing a Nick Rakocevic-less Hotshots for the most part of the second half, the Kings still had to lean on the big basket from a Christian Standhardinger and a couple of crucial defensive stops to put the game away.
Holding a seven point cushion, 85-78, halfway through the payoff period, Ginebra saw Magnolia make a last ditch run behind and and-1 play from Jackson Corpuz and a booming triple from Paul Lee.
Standhardinger though gave the Kings some breathing room with a jumper from the elbow with 1:26 left before Ginebra dodged huge bullets as Magnolia missed all of its last two heaves from beyond the arc – first from Lee and the last from Aris Dionisio with seven seconds left.
Jamie Malonzo put up a game-long brilliance with 21 points and 12 rebounds while Scottie Thompson provided support with 16 points and seven rebounds. Justin Brownlee was limited to just 11 points – his second lowest in his PBA career – although he had 13 rebounds and seven assists.
Lee, on the other hand, paced the Hotshots with 21 points spiked by four triples but were not enough to make up for the absence of Rakocevic who hit the showers with still 6:31 left in the third frame.
He was first called for a technical foul for a second motion in an earlier altercation with Ginebra guard LA Tenorio in the second quarter before he was assessed with flagrant foul penalty 1 incursion after trying to trip Standhardinger during a dead ball situation.
Rakocevic finished with 10 points and 11 rebounds before exiting the game while Dionisio added 12. Calvin Abueva had a double-double of 10 points and 12 rebounds while Ian Sangalang added 10 markers and nine boards.