Barangay Ginebra bears the weight of a nation on its shoulders as Bay Area tries to conquer a territory beyond its borders. And even if the challenge might be daunting for the royal Kings, the final pride, the last hope, look to keep the fire burning and somehow, in some way, clip the mighty Dragons’ wings.
A home stand on par with a national hero’s deeds is expected from Barangay Ginebra as it begins its efforts to prevent Bay Area from completely conquering the PBA in Game 1 of their best-of-seven 2022 Commissioner’s Cup Finals at the Mall of Asia Arena on Sunday, Dec. 25.
Tip-off of the highly anticipated showdown is at 5 p.m. with the Kings looking to give the Christmas Day crowd a beautiful present if they manage to scrape through what seemed to be the impenetrable scales of the Dragons.
“We're like a national team. I think if you are the home team you have to protect your home. We have to be ready for that. It's also a big challenge for us, especially playing the Bay Area Dragons. We know how good they are, how disciplined they are and how great a team they are,” said Kings captain LA Tenorio.
“We're gonna be ready for sure. Of course this championship is not only for us or for our families but also for the fans,” he added.
Ginebra, though, was one of the few who managed to make the Bay Area bleed, dealing the guest team its first taste of defeat ever since setting its foot in the Philippine shores. The Kings took down the Dragons with a resounding 111-93 win in the eliminations.
But the Dragons are not letting that happen again, especially after showing a lot of improvements since the last time they met. Bay Area finished the elimination as the top seed before taking down a gritty NLEX squad in the quarters and a powerhouse San Miguel in the semis – a testament of how the guest team has adapted to the league’s brand of play.
Even with the dominant run, Bay Area head coach Brian Goorjian believes his team remains the underdogs against an equally talented Ginebra squad.
“I look at their team, I look at their depth and it's a seven-game series so there's a lot of obstacles to overcome.We have a lot of youth that have never played in a finals series before so I view it, that's a long winded (series), I feel like an underdog."
Expected to lead the way for the Dragons is Andrew Nicholson who has been dominant all throughout the playoffs along with other key players in Hayden Blankley, Glen Yang, Kobey Lam, Zhu Songwei and 7-foot-5 center Liu Chuanxing.
Ginebra head coach Tim Cone, meanwhile, has a rejuvenated Tenorio and resident import Justin Brownlee to lead a pack that has enough firepower in reigning MVP Scottie Thompson, Japeth Aguilar, Jamie Malonzo and Christian Standhardinger.