It seemed like the young Dragons squad felt the nerves in their first game in the Finals.
Polished and dominant all-throughout the conference, Bay Area showed some chinks on its armor in Game 1 of their best-of-seven Finals against the Barangay Ginebra – something that head coach Brian Goorjian is determined to correct in Game 2.
The Australian champion coach rued his team’s failure to contain Justine Brownlee, keep the Kings off the board and get its players into their offensive rhythm which resulted in the 96-81 defeat.
“Ball is on our court. We got to get better for this second game. With the young guys, first experienced, we got pretty manhandled tonight so the ball is on our court,” said Goorjian.
Indeed, there is still a lot of tuning to be done for Bay Area after being limited to its lowest scoring output since setting foot in the Philippines. Andrew Nicholson was also limited to his conference-low of 27 points while his supporting casts in Hayden Blankley and Zhu Songwei also struggled with their shooting.
“Just in general, I think we shot poorly. Those guys (Blankley and Zhu) have been shooting the ball well. And we've been making our free throws. We shot 50 percent from the foul line and we had open looks that I thought that we didn't make,” Goorjian commented on their shooting.
It also didn’t help Bay Area’s cause that Ginebra simply had everything it wanted in the contest. The much-experienced Filipino team dominated the battle on the boards against the bigger Dragons, with Scottie Thompson and Christian Standhardinger leading the crew in rebounding.
Brownlee also got into a good groove, even shrugging off an injury scare when he appeared to have rolled his ankle in the second half, finishing with 28 points, 13 rebounds and six assists.
“Coming into the game We got to do something with Brownlee and we didn't. Over the course of the game, we started well but we didn't keep them off the glass. They killed us on the glass. We've been winning that. Thompson, Brownlee, those perimeter guys, if they rebound like that we are in trouble,” said Goorjian.
And then there was the defense which was obviously geared towards making Nicholson uncomfortable inside the court.
“How they guard Nicholson. Freedom of movement. He’s got to be able to move somewhere. Everywhere he goes to step, a guy jumps in front of him and smacks him. And that’s something learned in Game 1,” commented Goorjian.
“We have to come up with some solutions. That caught me off-guard because I didn't think we're allowed to do that. That defense on our best player was hard to deal with tonight. We can never get him loose and this is something that we learned in the playoffs,” he added.