Whether the Gin Kings will admit it or not, they had help. Lots of it.
Glen Rice Jr. torched the Ginebra with 44 points but couldn't deliver in the end. (Photo by the PBA Media Bureau)
If you allow a player like Glen Rice Jr. to score 44 points and grab 22 rebounds including 9 offensive rebounds, then your defense is not working to perfection. It means that the player can find other ways to score. That was the case in last night's Game 3 when Rice Jr. started to torch the defending champions, Barangay Ginebra Gin Kings right from the tip-off as he scored 14 points in the first quarter alone.
Despite this monstrous performance, the Gin Kings came out victorious as they beat the Talk N Text KaTropa, 106-103, which moved Ginebra one win away from returning to the Finals, should they win tomorrow's Game 4.
In a game that was mired by numerous shoving matches between players of both teams which resulted in a number of technical fouls being called mostly against the KaTropa, in a game where the result wasn't decided until the final buzzer when Glen Rice Jr. missed a 3-point shot that would have forced an overtime period, let's put aside the emotions, the heat and take a look at the disparities that when you look at them, you'll realize that these numbers had played important roles that propelled the Gin Kings to a 2-1 series lead:
31 First Quarter Points
In the 3 games of the series, the team who scored 31 points in the first quarter alone went on to win the game. Nothing beats having a high-scoring first quarter because it helps the team set the tone of the game early on. In the two games that Ginebra won so far, they reached 31 points in the first quarter which enabled them to build an early momentum. While Game 3 was not decided until the final buzzer, the 31 points of Ginebra in the first quarter enabled the crowd darlings to establish their offense.
28 Points from the Bench
Sure, TNT got 44 points from their import, Glen Rice Jr. but got little reinforcement especially from their bench players who only produced 15 points. The Ginebra bench troopers, on the other hand, were able to contribute more especially on the offensive end as they combined for 28 points. Greg Slaughter continued his stellar play with 19 points, including 9 of 12 free throw shooting, and 6 rebounds. This is a luxury Tim Cone enjoys because having a reliable set of bench players allows him to rest his starters, namely their import, Justin Brownlee who logged 44 minutes last night and scored 17 points.
27 Free Throws in the First Half
Okay. This is one disparity that said to have triggered a halftime backlash between Alfrancis Chua and Nash Racela as both squads were walking into their respective locker rooms. Both gentlemen nearly got to blows but were separated by team officials and their respective players. Even PBA Commissioner Chito Narvasa had to get in their way to make sure that no blood will be dropped. Imagine this: the Gin Kings were awarded 43 free throws, 27 of those in the first half alone.
Just how big the disparity was in the free throws? 27-8. In the first half. Alone. While Tim Cone apparently didn't say a thing when TNT was awarded 35 free throws back in Game 2, Cone was quick to explain that Ginebra was simply the more aggressive team which enabled them to fish more fouls from TNT defenders. As they say, what's a Ginebra win without a little drama on the side, right?
The defending champions can seal a rematch with the Meralco Bolts in the Finals with a win tomorrow. In terms of firepower and talent, we all know that both teams are loaded with both firepower and talent. It's never a question of who can produce more points. It's more about who has the heart to win it all despite all the odds. One thing is for sure: We can all expect a more chaotic Game 4 tomorrow.