SCOTTIE Thompson and Justin Brownlee got most of the plaudits in Barangay Ginebra’s win over San Miguel last week, but Nards Pinto and Aljon Mariano served as the unsung heroes in the dramatic win last Sunday.
Pinto had four points, four rebounds, three assists, and two steals in 19 minutes for the Gins, while Mariano had eight points and three assists in their 97-96 win over San Miguel in the PBA Commissioner's Cup.
More than the numbers, Barangay Ginebra coach Tim Cone said it was the defense of Pinto, particularly against CJ Perez, that proved to be the major difference in the game.
“Nards was really one of the biggest keys because he can defend CJ down the stretch,” said Cone. “And CJ was just killing us all night. He was getting downhill off the ball screens. We just can’t control him off the ball screens.
"He was creating so much to the basket. He was kicking to the roller. He was kicking to the shooters. We really had a hard time.”
Perez had 19 points throughout the first three quarters, but was held scoreless and missed two of his shots in the fourth with Pinto locking him down.
“And Nards came in and got physical and down and dirty, and kinda changed the momentum for CJ. That was big. That was huge,” said Cone.
Mariano, on the other hand, had five points in the final period and kept the game close with clutch plays. His lay-up cut the San Miguel lead down to 10, 89-79, after Ginebra trailed by as many as 19 points.
“Aljon is the one guy who knows our system really, really well,” Cone said. “He is the one guy that practices in every position. He practices at the five, he practices at the wing, he practices at the guard. He is always practicing in different positions.
"He was the one guy we relied on. Wherever we put him, he knew what he was doing as opposed to the other players.”
Mariano’s role was key since Ginebra was missing Christian Standhardinger due to an injury. Cone admitted that they weren’t prepared for the absence of Standhardinger after he was ruled out just the morning of the game.
“That’s why we kept getting him out there because he gave us a little bit of flow in our offense. Plus, he is a hard-nosed defender who can get on the boards. Those guys were really, really key,” said Cone of Mariano and Pinto.