THEY have a giant that’s returning and a giant crowd that’s watching, yet coach Tim Cone was quick to tone down Barangay Ginebra’s matchup against giant-slayer Mahindra in the PBA Governors’ Cup on Friday night at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
The Gin Kings have been on a resurgence that’s reminiscent of their glory days and they’re welcoming back Greg Slaughter, who is set to make his conference debut after being sidelined for three months by an ankle surgery.
Still, the league’s most popular team is bracing for the Enforcer, this tournament’s surprise team that has been toppling one giant after another.
Cone, however, insisted Ginebra doesn't qualify as a giant - yet.
“I don’t think we classify as a giant, so I don’t if they’ll be a giant-killer against us,” insisted Cone, whose team is coming off a 12-day break following a 116-103 victory over sibling rival Star before a crowd of over 16,000 at the Big Dome.
The Gin Kings and Enforcer are bound for the playoffs, with Ginebra running second in the 12-team standings with a 6-2 win-loss record and Mahindra just lurking a half-game behind. The winner in the 7 p.m. encounter will secure a twice-to-beat advantage in the quarterfinals.
The Enforcer, though, received a reality check via a 103-88 loss to Rain or Shine last Friday as they continue to miss Nino Canaleta, who’s expected to be out for the rest of the eliminations after undergoing an appendectomy.
“They struggled against Rain or Shine, but that’s not unusual because everybody struggles against Rain or Shine,” Cone said. “Losing KG was a blow. He’s a tough guy to replace.”
“But if you look at them statistically, they’re number one in true shooting percentage and their defensive efficiency is in the top two, so they’re not doing it with mirrors — walang tsamba,” the champion coach added, referring to the advanced statistic that measures shooting efficiency taking into account field goals, three-point field goals, and free throws.
“They’re a true serious contender,” he continued. “We know we have our work out for them. They’ve played some serious basketball, so you better take them very seriously.”