The tough-playing guard was finally activated on Sunday night, when the Kings put away an emphatic 103-80 Game 3 victory over the Magnolia Hotshots to take a 2-1 lead in their best-of-five semis series.
Ginebra coach Tim Cone fielded Pinto at the 3:59 mark of the fourth quarter and the Kings already way ahead, 95-74, for the reserve guard ‘to have a feel of the game.’
It was the first appearance in the playoffs for Pinto after missing the quarterfinals against NorthPort and the first two games of the semis after suffering a Grade 2 ankle sprain late in the eliminations.
Pinto said he only practiced with the team a day before Game 3 when Cone had him play two-on-two games in practice.
While there is still some swelling in the ankle, Pinto said he no longer feels any pain, adding he’s now 80 percent fully recovered.
And the close to four minutes he played was a good barometer that he’s ready to go full blast.
“Ngayong naglaro ako medyo ok na, Kulang na lang yung ilang na lang talaga kasi matagal na hindi nagalaw yung right foot ko kaya medyo naiilang pa ako,” said the product of Arellano University.
"Ok naman na ako. Kailangan ko lang talaga palakasin at tsaka siyempre yung mindset ko na medyo may takot pa ako.”
Cone admitted Pinto’s presence would be a huge boost to the Kings, who are now one win away from making it back to the finals.
As one of his defensive lynchpins in the backcourt, the Ginebra coach considers Pinto as a prime defender on Magnolia gunner Paul Lee, who played for just over two minutes in the Game 3 loss as he was feeling under the weather.
But Pinto said the Kings are loaded with players who are just as capable of defending Lee or the star players of the other teams.
“Marami namang players diyan na kayang gawin yung trabaho ko,” he humbly pointed out. “Tsaka Paul Lee yan, e. Siyempre hindi mo naman mapipigilan yan.”
Regardless, Cone is more than happy seeing one of his more reliable backcourt defenders back in full harness.