TIM Cone is under no illusions that Game Five would be a walk in the park for his San Mig team.
There is just too much at stake for the proud franchise in this 48-minute game: the legacy of being just the fourth team to complete a season grand slam and, for its legendary coach, the chance to once again put his name in the record books as the first to win more than one 'triple crown' in his career.
They Said It!
“It comes down to a 50-50 game. I wish it wouldn’t come down to that, but we just come out and see what we can do though we knew it’s gonna be hard because (Rain or Shine is) a tough team." San Mig coach Tim Cone
“In terms of winning this particular championship, we understand that winning the grand slam is very hard, very, very, very hard. Otherwise, it would be done all the time," said Cone ahead of San Mig's winner-take-all showdown with Rain or Shine for the PBA Governors Cup championship."
"But we're just gonna try to take the next game just like any other knockout game that we played,” he added.
As if the pressure that goes with completing history is not enough, San Mig made it harder for itself when the Mixers failed to put away a scrappy Rain or Shine side when they had the chance, dropping Game Four, 79-88, on Tuesday night to leave the two sides level at 2-2 in the best-of-five finals.
Cone was honest enough to admit that the pressure is now on them.
“Without a doubt, there’s more pressure on us (Mixers) than there is on them (Elasto Painters),” said Cone, who is looking to lead San Mig to a fourth successive title and fifth overall three years after moving from Alaska where he completed his first grand slam in 1996.
“Now it comes down to a 50-50 game. I wish it wouldn’t come down to that, but we just come out and see what we can do though we knew it’s gonna be hard because they’re a tough team,” Cone added.
But if there is a team that knows how to win this type of games, it is San Mig. The team has won an impressive 17 of 21 do-or-die matches since Cone took charge in 2012 and is a perfect 8-0 (win-loss) in no-tomorrow games over the last four conferences.
San Mig is also perfect 4-0 in do-or-die Game Fives since the trio of Marc Pingris, PJ Simon and James Yap came together under the banner of the former Purefoods franchise.
However, Rain or Shine is one of only four teams to have beaten San Mig and Cone in a do-or-die game, pulling off the feat in Game Seven of this same tournament in 2012 on the way to winning its first championship in franchise history.
Yeng Guiao's battlers are also 6-2 in sudden-death matches.
But more than the numbers, Guiao is more concerned about the effort his team will put up in Game Five. That's the reason he only had one message to his players at the end of practice on Tuesday - outwork San Mig.
“They won Game One because they worked harder than we did. Then, we lost the 17-point lead, just because they worked hard to get back,” said Guiao.
“In Game Two, we worked harder than they did, so we won Game Two. Game Three, they worked harder than we did, they won it, but in Game Four, we worked harder than they did,” he added.
In the final game of its season, Rain or Shine will also be trying become just the third team in league history to deny a ballclub of a grand slam.
Crispa was the first to pull off the trick when it prevented arch-rival Toyota from registering the first-ever golden treble in the 1975 Third Conference, while 36 years later, Petron outlasted Talk ‘N Text, 4-3 in the 2011 Governors Cup finals.
“The season, the scheduling, just the fatigue factor, the stresses that set in, the distractions, it’s just maintaining your focus and staying tough, not just physically, but most of all mentally,” Guiao said.
“That’s what it requires on Wednesday, but the good thing on Wednesday, it’s just out there for you to just give yourself a chance at winning a championship.”