MATCH-up problems, more than anything else, prompted Ginebra coach Ato Agustin to keep Japeth Aguilar on the bench during the endgame of the Kings’ 95-101 loss to sister team Petron in their PBA Governors Cup face-off on Sunday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Agustin admitted the 6-foot-9 Aguilar struggled defensively against Petron import Elijah Millsap when he was moved to the power forward spot, forcing him to stick it out with veteran forward Willy Wilson in the closing minutes of a game the Kings dominated in the opening half.
The Ginebra mentor said the Boosters turned the game around in the third quarter when Millsap played the `4’ spot and gave Aguilar the task to take on him defensively.
“We did the adjustment especially when their import played No. 4, so `yung match-up namin with the import and Japeth, medyo doon kami nasaktan sa third quarter,” Agustin said after his first game calling the shots for the league’s most popular ballclub.
Ginebra led 52-45 at the half, but Petron went on a huge scoring tear in the third period by outscoring the Kings, 34-19, to take a 79-71 lead with them entering the pivotal fourth.
“Doon kami nawala nung third quarter,” said Agustin, who took over at the Ginebra bench after Alfrancis Chua stepped down at the end of the Commissioner's Cup.
Ginebra, however, was mangled off the boards in Aguilar's absence, with Doug Kramer's follow-up basket proving to be the dagger that killed the Kings' hopes in the endgame.
Aguilar appeared to have struggled guarding the younger brother of NBA player Paul Millsap.
When the 6-foot-9 former Western Kentucky stalwart first entered the game at the 1:48 mark of the first period and Ginebra holding on a 29-19 lead, Millsap welcomed him with an in-your-face slam dunk with a foul to boot.
Millsap ended the night with a team-high 24 points, nine rebounds, five assists, four steals, and a pair of block shots.
“Masyado kami nag-rely sa match-up na Japeth will be No. 4 and yung import will be No. 5. So wala kaming match-up doon sa import nila. Eh hindi naman makuha ni Japeth yung import nila,” Agustin said.
Aguilar finished with eight points and five rebounds in 18 minutes of play in his first game with the league’s most popular ballclub, but was sitting on the bench when the game was on the line.
Unfortunately, the ploy appeared to have backfired as Wilson was whistled for an illegal screen in the final 1:47 of the tight contest and the Kings trailing, 93-98.
“We need adjustment. Medyo nabigla lang. So kailangan namin ma-practice si Japeth to play the No. 5 position and maybe Mac (Baracael) play the '4' spot,” said Agustin.