HAYDEN Blankley put his shooting woes in Game One behind him with a solid showing that enabled Bay Area to tie the PBA Commissioner’s Cup Finals at 1-all.
On Wednesday, Blankley scored 17 points on 3-of-6 shooting from threes in the Dragons’ 99-82 victory that evened the best-of-seven finals at 1-1. He shot 7-of-10 overall, bouncing back from a forgettable Christmas Day finals game where he shot just 2-of-13 and missed all his nine three-point points.
“That was definitely motivation, wanting to prove that I belong at this stage,” said Blankley after Game One.
The 22-year-old Chinese-Australian was one of the cornerstones of the Dragons’ campaign entering the finals. Blankley even exploded with a 47-point outing when the Dragons ousted Rain or Shine in the quarterfinals.
Playing in his first year as a pro, Blankley admitted nerves got into him in Game One, which was played on Christmas Day with more than 18,000 spectators in attendace at the Mall of Asia Arena.
“I had a bad one in the first game. I think this game, I just didn’t put any pressure on myself. I think, maybe in the first game, I put too much pressure on myself. And the big crowd made it worse.
“(In Game Two) I tried to get myself going by doing the little things on defense and rebounding, boxing out, and then the shots started to fall and it opened up the game,” added Blankley.
Despite the anxious moments in Game One, Blankley said he totally loved the atmosphere of playing with most of the fans cheering against them.
“There was a lot of pressure but I love that environment. I love the Filipino fans. I don’t care who they root for. I know the fans are for Ginebra. But it just created such a fun environment to play in. But I think I let it get into my head in that first game especially when I started missing shots,” said Blankley.
Bay Area coach Brian Goorjian said they urged Blankley to keep shooting despite a poor shooting night in Game One. The West Texas A&M product said Goorjian’s gesture went a long way in boosting his confidence.
“I said to the group, all of them, do what you did in the last game,” said Goorjian. “Take your shots. They got my full backing. I’m going to coach the other side of the ball, the defense, the rebounding. They are young and I think the rim looked about that big in the last game. This environment is incredible. I think the young guys were a little bit tense in the first one so I tried personally to support them.
“Blankley is a good shooter. And when he gets his feet set over the course of the series, I think he is going to make a good percentage as does Ray-Ray (Zhu Songwei),” said Goorjian.
“He never once told me that it’s a bad shot,” said Blankley. “Sixth miss, seventh miss, eighth miss, he was still saying, 'Shoot the next one.' Myles (Powell) would come up from behind and tell us to shoot the next one, the guys are telling me to keep shooting. It helps a lot because confidence is a huge part of the game. And it helps that the shots I’m taking are still good ones and they’ll fall eventually.”