ALJON Mariano typified the sluggish start of the staring unit of Barangay Ginebra in its 109-82 loss to San Miguel Beer in Game One of the PBA Philippine Cup Finals on Friday night.
The third-year small forward failed to take advantage of a rare start for the Gin Kings. He four points - all in garbage time in the fourth quarter - and grabbed just one rebound against two turnovers and two fouls in lackluster 17 minutes.
“Some of the guys, we wanted out there. AJ (Aljon) started the game poorly,” Gin Kings coach Tim Cone said. “He hasn’t played in a while and maybe that’s my mistake, thinking he had a chance to get ready, but he wasn’t ready.”
Mariano missed four games bridging the latter part of the eliminations and early in the playoffs due to an ankle injury, but played a key role in the do-or-die quarterfinal game against Alaska, before averaging 23.5 minutes as a starter in the first two games of the Star series.
The 6-foot-3 wingman, however, played no more 12 minutes in each of the next three games he played in the rest of the semifinal series, not seeing action in two of them.
“It was a blowout and down the stretch, we wanted to get our guys out there,” Cone said to explain his decision to put in subs Chris Ellis and Paolo Taha late in Game One.
Ellis finished with 13 points and Taha added nine.
Mariano’s fellow starters, LA Tenorio and Japeth Aguilar, scored just five points apiece as the entire starting unit combined for just 19 points, compared to 63 from their bench.
Asked if the grueling seven-game semifinal series against the Hotshots took its toll, Cone refused to make it an excuse.
“Yeah, but it shouldn’t excuse what happened out there,” Cone said. “We just didn’t have anything tonight.”