Ginebra turns back gutsy Rain or Shine to start PBA title defense

The Kings wasted no time reminding everyone who is the boss when it comes to the season-ending conference.

Justin Brownlee announces his return with a triple-double (PBA Images)

Justin Brownlee and defending champion Barangay Ginebra turned back a gutsy Rain or Shine, 116-108, to open their title-retention bid in a convincing fashion in the 2023 PBA Governors’ Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum on Sunday, Feb. 5.

The Kings had to shake off some championship hangover after finding themselves trailing early in the final frame before Brownlee and Nards Pinto provided the huge spark that triggered an 11-0 run to crush the spirits of the hard-fight Elasto Painters.

Brownlee immediately made his presence felt in his return to the hard court since winning the Commissioner’s Cup title by dropping a triple-double of 29 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds while Pinto added 12 points off the bench – eight of which came during the pivotal stretch before the 10,080 crowd.

Michael Qualls, Beau Belga and Rey Nambatac erased Ginebra's 12-point lead at the half with a huge third-quarter assault to give Rain or Shine the 79-70 upperhand.

But the Kings went on a run that cut the lead down to just one, 81-80 heading to the final frame and kept their composure despite the resilient attempts of the Elasto Painters.

An 11-0 rally that turned a 93-90 deficit into a 101-93 advantage set the tone for the Kings until the final buzzer.

Japeth Aguilar also paced Ginebra with 18 points, while Scottie Thompson added 15 points. Jamie Malonzo and Stanley Pringle also contributed with 14 points apiece.

Qualls, meanwhile, topped Rain or Shine's scorers with 23 points, while Belga dropped a conference-high of 21 points in a futile attempt. Nambatac added 18 points while James Yap finished with 11 points as the Elasto Painters remained winless in four games.