BARANGAY Ginebra survived the absence of reigning MVP Mark Caguioa in the endgame and a searing Meralco second-half rally to pull off a 84-81 win on Friday night and continue its steady climb up the PBA Commissioner’s Cup team standings at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Gin Kings coach Alfrancis Chua was the first to admit that his boys played complacent basketball in the second half, allowing the Bolts to come back from a 21-point deficit in the second period.
Meralco import Eric Dawson led the team’s second-half charge, banging in 22 of his 31 points in the game, while Chris Ross buried an off-the-glass three-pointer that shoved Meralco to within 81-83 with 25.6 seconds to go.
LA Tenorio split his charities in the the final 9.7 seconds of the game, before Ross’ desperation three-point attempt went just short, allowing Barangay Ginebra to escape with its third straight win.
More importantly, the Gin Kings forged a four-way logjam for the fifth to eighth places in the standings with San Mig Coffee, Air21 and the Bolts on similar 4-5 records.
“It’s a scary win, but it’s our fault. We relaxed on defense,” rued Chua. “We were up by 21, but we had a lot of turnovers. Yung mga bata nag-relax na nung pagdating ng second and third quarter. I kept telling them ang tatalo sa kanila defense not offense.”
Caguioa, the reigning PBA MVP, left the game for good with 2:33 remaining in the good after hurting his knee when he slipped on the floor after a bad pass to Chris Ellis that was intercepted by Ross.
Chua said he may have hyperextended his left knee and will have to be evaluated first before getting cleared to play in Sunday’s game against Barako Bull.
The Bolts, who dropped their second straight game, struggled offensively all night, making just 30.7 percent (27-of-88) of their shots.
Vernon Macklin, who was deliberately fouled and sent to the foul line by Meralco several times in the second half, struggled again from the free throw line, hitting just five-of-15. But he still led the Gin Kings with 23 points, 22 rebounds and five assists.
Caguioa added 21 points and five rebounds before he got injured.
Brgy Ginebra 84 - Macklin 23, Caguioa 21, Ellis 11, Labagala 8, Hatfield 7, Tenorio 6, Mamaril 3, Helterbrand 3, Baracael 2, Jensen 0, Wilson 0, Raymundo 0
Meralco 81 - Dawson 31, Hodge 18, Buenafe 8, Hugnatan 6, Salvacion 6, Ross 5, Cardona 5, Manuel 2, Reyes 0, Timberlake 0, Artadi 0
Quarterscores: 22-10, 42-29, 64-57, 84-81