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    COLUMN: Game over for TNT as Ginebra ready for date with destiny

    Dec 7, 2020
    PHOTO: PBA Images
    spin zone

    CHICAGO - A rampage of three Roger Pogoy 3s evaporated a once-mighty 18-point Ginebra lead into a shaky 88-85 cushion with 2:50 to go in Game Four of the PBA Finals.

    It was a stuff of legend.

    It was also magical in a way that the long distance fireworks distracted us from the view that TNT hasn't really been shooting the ball well in this championship series.

    In losing Game Four, 98-88, to fall behind 3-1, Tropang Giga missed 52 of 87 shots (40 percent) and sank just 10 of 37 treys (27 percent).

    Even in their 21-point blowout win in Game Three, TNT went only 36-of-84 from the field and 13-of-43 from deep.

    That's a ton of shooting. But it's dull, not sharp.

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    Look, Ginebra will never be accused of being the Golden State Warriors, but the Gin Kings are efficient, more prudent with their shot selection. And that was the difference in Game Four where they cashed 12 of 25 from 3 and 37 of 77 shots overall.

    Unlike TNT's offense, which has been sustained heavily by an unlimited all-you-can-fire buffet of 3s, Ginebra's attack makes a conscious effort to aggressively penetrate the paint first before kicking it out as a second option.

    This often resulted in high percentage shots and "good misses," or wide-open looks that just didn't drop, so unlike TNT which was clunking contested 2s and hurried 3s.

    Knocking down 3s is a cool highlight reel. But the numbers don't lie. In the long run, when firing the ball from 22 feet and beyond, the percentages will knock you out.

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    So when the Tropang Giga were dragged into the mud of yet another hairy finish, they were already wounded. L.A. Tenorio just happened to be in the vicinity and promptly stabbed TNT with a pair of dagger 3s to end the misery.


    But when Tenorio is at his brutal best, TNT has no prayer.

    Poy Erram is a beast who flexed with 19 points and 16 rebounds in a losing effort, but when Japeth Aguilar brings his A-game, Ginebra roars to a different gear.

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    In pushing Ginebra to a game away from the Philippine Cup title, Tenorio and Aguilar combined for 44 points, 11 rebounds, six assists and two steals.

    More importantly, they made 17 of their 28 combined 28 field goals. Now, that shooting is sharp, not dull.

    I've never seen a more dangerous, cold-blooded pair of gunslingers since Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

    And while the small-big 1-2 punch deservedly gets the starring role, this latest Ginebra production was a team effort soaked with unsung heroes.


      Early in the series, Joe Devance was calcifying on the bench but when called upon by coach Tim Cone, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2007 draft delivered like Fed-Ex.

      Affectionately called JDV, he was 37 and grinding, and chipping in a valuable eight points and 10 rebounds while using his frame as a "No Entry" sign for TNT's lane penetrators.

      Scottie Thompson had a benign 11 points. But he laced it with 11 rebounds and nine assists. This kid with American roots is a Swiss army knife.

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      Ginebra has so many weapons. TNT has so many issues.

      As bleak as Sunday night was for the Tropang Giga, the promise of Monday was even darker.

      Held to just two points and two assists, Jayson Castro limped out of Game Four after just 17 minutes and 35 seconds of action.

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      I'm a columnist, not a doctor, so I'm not going to diagnose what ails him.

      But here's what my eyes told me. He's not the same. His movement is slow, the lift low. Ginebra's defense can now see The Blur coming a mile away.

      TNT enters Game Five potentially without their best playmaker in Castro and their best scorer, Bobby Ray Parks.

      It's over.

      And to Tim Cone, this much I can say.


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      PHOTO: PBA Images
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