ON the verge of becoming the winningest coach in the 39-year history of the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA), Tim Cone admits still feeling uncomfortable not until San Mig Coffee is finally crowned champion of the PLDT myDSL-Philippine Cup.
Definitely not against a Rain or Shine team known for its resiliency amidst adversity.
“This (Rain or Shine) team is so well-coached. It’s just really hard to shake,” said Cone after the Mixers won Game Four of the best-of-seven Finals, 93-90, to take a commanding 3-1 lead in the series.
A fourth straight win by the Mixers in Sunday’s Game 5 – set at 4:30 p.m. – would have Cone moving past the legendary Virgilio `Baby’ Dalupan as the all-time winningest coach in the annals of Asia’s pioneering pro league and San Mig one of the greatest All-Filipino teams of all-time with six Philippine Cup championships.
Cone, however, has been a keen student of the league, well aware of the fact that several teams in PBA history were able to come back from such a deep hole and win it all.
Interestingly, Cone was at the losing end on one of them, recalling his coaching stint with Alaska during the 2006 Philippine Cup, when the Aces blew a similar 3-1 semifinals advantage and eventually lose to Purefoods in seven games.
“There’s been a lot of talk about how few teams come back from 3-1,” said the 56-year-old Cone.
“I was in one of the teams (that had been beaten). You can’t pat yourself on the back at this point,” he added.
“You’ve got to keep pushing, keep working especially against a team like this (Rain or Shine), which doesn’t change their game whether they are up 3-1 in the series or down 1-3. They will continue to play their game at a very high level and that’s difficult.”
The Mixers though will have to drastically adjust with the possible absence of energetic power forward Marc Pingris, who skipped Saturday’s practice due to an abrasion on his right eye after being poked by JR Quinahan during a rebound play late in the third period of Game Four.
The 6-foot-5 Pingris showed up in the team practice Saturday but didn’t play. He is 50-50 doubtful for Sunday’s game.
Meantime, Rain or Shine coach Yeng Guiao vows his team will fight till the end as the Elasto Painters try to snap a three-game losing streak in the title series and live to play for another day.
“We’re not definitely giving it up,” said Guiao, whose team couldn’t get its transition game going against San Mig’s well-disciplined defensive scheme.
For Guiao, Game Five boils down to executing the plays right with the hope of getting the all-important win in a virtual do-or-die-encounter for the Elasto Painters.
“I thought (Game Four) should have gone our way, but again, it’s not over. We’ll come back stronger on Sunday,” he added.