Ginebra out to sustain strong conference start against Blackwater

Toronto Raptors superstar Kawhi Leonard nails nine 3’s in a row!

Tim Cone expects the hard work Barangay Ginebra exerted in practice even during the All Star break to pay dividends when the Kings clash with Blackwater in the PBA Governors Cup on Wednesday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

While key players Japeth Aguilar, Mark Caguioa, Joe Devance and rookie Scottie Thompson were part of the annual mid-season classic last week, the rest of the Kings worked their tail off at the gym as they try to sustain their strong start in the season-ending conference.

“We’re hoping to sustain the momentum that we generated before the All Star break,” said Cone, whose team takes on the Elite at 7 p.m. “It’s been a long break between games and we worked hard to stay sharp.”

Ginebra currently occupies a share of third and fourth spots with sister team San Miguel Beer at 3-1, behind surprise leader Mahindra and TNT, tournaments leaders with similar 4-0 cards.

But the multi-titled PBA coach isn’t taking Blackwater lightly, especially since the young franchise have an import in Eric Dawson, who could score in bunches at any given night.

The 6-9 Dawson, a high-scoring import, was best remembered for dropping 57 points during his first PBA stint in 2013 with the Meralco Bolts.

But the former NBA D-League Impact Player of the Year is coming off a rough stint prior to the PBA All Star break, having been limited to just 14 points on a woeful 5-of-17 field goal shooting in Rain or Shine’s 98-92 loss to Rain or Shine. The Elite currently carry a 1-2 record.

“Hopefully, that hard work will show up against Blackwater who is a very dangerous opponent with a 6-9 Dawson. We’ll have to figure a way to contain him,” said Cone.

Ginebra has learned to adjust this conference without injured big man Greg Slaughter behind new import Justin Brownlee, who has fitted well with the league’s most popular squad.

Against Meralco, which Ginebra dominated well from start to finish, the former St. John’s standout registered 26 points, 6 assists, 3 rebounds, 1 steal and 1 block in the Kings’ 107-93 win.

The sweet-shooting  Brownlee is averaging 27 points, 10.3 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 1.3 steals in 3 games since replacing Paul Harris, who went down with an injured thumb.

Add to that the resurgence of big guard Sol Mercado, whose numbers in the Governors Cup improved dramatically.

The six-foot Fil-Am guard out of Biola is averaging 14.0 points, 3.8 assists and 2.5 rebounds, including 45.5 percent shooting from 3-point territory and a scorching 60.6 percent from the field overall.

In the Commissioner’s Cup, Mercado’s stats line were 6.1 points, 2.5 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 29.8 percent from 3-point zone and 37.2 percent field goal shooting. – Richard Dy

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