It’s a loss that’s hard to swallow.
Barangay Ginebra was dominating NLEX on Friday night until NBA veteran Al Thornton decided to take matters into his own hands in the 4th quarter and overtime.
Thornton, a former NBA first round draft pick and All-Rookie First Team, scattered half of his 50 points — his 2nd time to do it against the Gin Kings — in the final 17 minutes of the game to carry the Road Warriors to a come-from-behind 114-112 victory.
Barangay Ginebra coach Tim Cone was fuming mad that he walked out of the court with still 1.4 seconds left in the overtime and did not grant media interviews as he went straight to the coliseum exit from their locker room.
Kings’ point guard LA Tenorio, who buried an inconsequential trey at the buzzer, and their import, former NBA D-League MVP Othyus Jeffers, were left to speak for him.
“We gave up too many fouls. We just have to adjust to the referees. Stats-wise, okay naman kami. ‘Yun lang. Overall, I think naging okay naman kami,” Tenorio said.
And boy was he right.
The Kings converted 5 more field goal attempts, won the rebounding battle (53-51), dominated inside the paint (60-42), scored more off turnovers (21-6) and fastbreak points (36-19), and issued more assists (29-12).
They were way better, except that they gave up 10 more fouls resulting in 17 more free throws for Road Warriors.
NLEX ended up shooting 30-of-42 from the stripe, with Thornton going 16-of-20 while Barangay Ginebra only had 19-of-25.
“We played a good basketball. We just had a couple of breakdowns. I think we beat them in every category except the free throws,” Jeffers said.
Overshadowed by Thornton’s offensive brilliance was Jeffers’s solid debut at Ginebra.
The smallest import – at 6-foot-5 – in this conference, Jeffers made a good account of himself, playing big as he fired 31 points and grabbed 20 rebounds.
But not even those monster numbers can’t console him as he felt bad for the crowd favorite’s throngs of fans.
“I’m mad at myself that we didn’t get the win. I take the blame,” Jeffers said.
The Kings’ prolific import, who shunned more lucrative offers from other countries just to return here in the Philippines after his 1-game stint with Talk ‘N Text 2 seasons ago, made a vow to the never-say-die team’s legion of fans that will now come with heavier expectations.
“I got you the rest of the conference,” Jeffers said.