ITS offense has improved, yet it’s Barangay Ginebra’s performance on the other end that has seen a bigger development.
That’s what Tim Cone, the master of the Triangle offense, has noticed about the undefeated Kings, who are now handled by his protégé Jeff Cariaso.
In his first meeting against Cariaso, Cone and his San Mig Super Coffee Mixers try to figure how to penetrate the Kings’ defense on Sunday in the PBA Governors’ Cup at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
“People are talking about their Triangle, but I think the real upgrade has been their defense,” Cone said ahead of the 5:15 p.m. matchup. “And that’s going to continue when you have a Slaughter and an Aguilar who can anchor the back end of your defense.”
The multi-titled American mentor is referring to Greg Slaughter and Japeth Aguilar, the Kings’ twin towers who have been marshaling a league-leading defense that has allowed just 76.3 points in their first three games, with no opponent reaching the 40-percent shooting clip barrier.
“You have a solid chance of being the best defensive team out there,” Cone added. “I think they’re just going to get better and better on that end of the floor."
On offense, that’s where Cone sees an edge the Mixers hope to exploit as they seek to deal the Kings their first loss and grab a share of the lead.
“They’re still in their early stages (of learning the Triangle). We’re in our advanced stages,” said Cone, whose team is in joint second with three wins in four games. “Hopefully we can take advantage of that.”
The most-titled coach in the PBA hopes the Mixers would avoid another sluggish start like in their 92-82 win against Globalport that saw them fall into a deep 20-point hole before banking on their championship experience to climb out.
“We can’t expect games to start like that and then come back in the second half and win the game,” Cone said. “That’s not gonna happen very often. That’s a rarity.”
“Our guys have to come and be more focused early, especially that first group, set the tone,” added Cone, who is counting on a tested bunch led by James Yap, PJ Simon, Mark Barroca, and Marc Pingris, who all rode on the shoulders of import Marqus Blakely in the comeback.
Blakely matches up against a likewise energetic, all-around counterpart in Zach Mason, who registered 22 points, nine boards, five assists, and two blocks in the Kings’ 84-76 victory over Air21 last time.
Earlier, Meralco, the only winless team in the season-ending tournament, tries to put an end to its power outage as it faces Alaska (2-2) at 3 o’clock.