Ginebra defense faltered v NLEX, admits Devance, Mercado

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Barangay Ginebra led in almost all departments during its opening game in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup, except that the Kings failed to stop NLEX import Al Thornton, leading to their 112-114 overtime loss on Friday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Thornton played superb offensively all night, dropping 50 points on 16-of-30 shooting from the floor while making 16 of his 20 attempts from the foul line to complete the Road Warriors’ fightback from a 14-point 1st-half deficit.

“We lost our discipline on defense,” said Ginebra veteran forward Joe Devance, whose team opened the conference without starting Greg Slaughter.

Slaughter is still recovering from measles.

“I think they shot about 18 or 19 more free throws than we did and that’s basically the story right there in the game because we couldn’t play defense,” he added.

Read: Marcelo ready to step up sans Slaughter in conference opener

Coach Tim Cone left the bench with still 1.7 seconds to go in the extension period in disgust after seeing Ginebra let Thornton score jumpers, putbacks and shoot free throws down the stretch.

The 6-foot-7 Devance had nothing but kind words for the former Los Angeles Clippers forward, whom he had to defend in some stretches of the game.

“He’s (Thornton) really good. His jumper is amazing and he can get to the rim whenever he wants,” said the left-handed Ginebra point-forward.

“We just didn’t do a good enough job defensively. Hopefully we can play enough better next time.”

Read: PBA Commissioner’s Cup Import Rankings 1.0

Ginebra dominated NLEX in the fastbreak department, 36-19, held a lopsided 48-13 advantage in bench points and scored more off turnovers, 21-6.

The Kings also held a 53-51 rebounding edge with import Othyus Jeffers snaring down 20.

But with Ginebra playing horribly on the defensive end, Cone’s squad committed 37 fouls, resulting to NLEX’s 30-of-42 trip from the foul line.

“You look at the stats sheet  and you would say we had won. But at the end of the day, that doesn’t matter,” said Ginebra guard Sol Mercado, who flirted with a triple-double after finishing with 15 points, 8 assists and 7 rebounds.

Read: Ross on buddy Mercado: I’m glad I proved him right

“We’ve got to get better defensively without fouling because he (Thornton) hit some very tough shots and I feel like we bailed him out and put him on the line too manny times, rather than making him take tough shots,” he added.

Ginebra has 1 day to prepare before facing Philippine Cup playoff tormentor GlobalPort in the main game on Valentine’s Day at the Philsports Arena.

Mercado said since that 83-84 quarterfinal loss last December, the Kings already moved on and will treat GlobalPort just like any other team this conference.

Read: Ginebra big Japeth Aguilar ready to be import-stopper

“We’re over that. GlobalPort is just another team in our way to get where we need to get,” he said. “We’ll prepare for them.” — By Richard Dy