JOE Devance heaved a sigh of relief after taking a lesser load on defense in Barangay Ginebra’s 125-101 win over TNT KaTropa that allowed the Gin Kings to stay alive in their PBA Commissioner’s Cup semifinal series on Thursday night.
Since the start of the best-of-five series, the veteran utility man has been among those unenviably tasked with defending Joshua Smith.
And 6-foot-7 Devance was glad to see less of the 6-foot- 9, 330-pound Smith, who was absent in the second half of Game Three due to a foot injury.
“Just the minutes that I had on him was tough,” Devance admitted. “He’s huge, he’s the biggest player I played, by far. But he’s a great player. I heard he got injured. I hope it’s nothing serious. He seems like a great guy. He plays well in their system.”
Without Smith, the Gin Kings took advantage as they maintained a huge second-half lead that ballooned to 32 points.
Coming in averaging 25.5 points on 67.7-percent shooting and 15 boards in 27.9 minutes in the first two games of the series, Smith could only contribute four points on 2-of-6 shooting and seven rebounds in less than 10 minutes of play.
And having a lesser defensive load, Devance contributed more on offense as he finished with 10 points on nine attempts, five boards, three assists, one steal, and one block without committing a single turnover in almost 24 minutes off the bench.
“Luckily, were able to get the win today,” Devance said ahead of Game Four on Saturday. “I think we played a lot better today. We’ll see what we can get better at and see what happens for the next game.”
“I’m not worried about Game Five, I’m worried about Game Four,” he added. “We got to get this Game Four, play harder, play smarter, play together, and we’ll see what happens.”