BOCAUE — Barangay Ginebra head coach Tim Cone liked the versatility that his squad flashed against an undersized TNT side that posed a lot of problems for them during the season opener.
The KaTropa, who played without Troy Rosario, Anthony Semerad and Yousef Taha, were forced to play small ball and even started wingman Don Trollano at the power forward position.
This tactic seemed to give the Gin Kings a lot of fits early. After coming out of the gates red-hot, Ginebra had a hard time shaking off TNT and allowed them to cut the lead to two twice after leading by as much as 18 in the first half.
“We were very concerned from a coaching point of view because we didn’t know how we were gonna match up,” Cone said after the game. “Those were our concerns when we found out their starting line-up, and we saw Trollano playing the four. It put a lot of pressure on Greg (Slaughter) and Japeth (Aguilar) to play out of their comfort zone, but they did a good job of it.”
They found a cure in the fourth period as Cone opted to field a one-in, four-out lineup for most of the quarter. This allowed Ginebra to counter the KaTropa’s speed while keeping enough size with Slaughter manning the middle.
A five-out lineup, with Joe DeVance playing the five, was also deployed after the Gin Kings erected an 81-68 midway through the period.
These combinations, paired with TNT’s inability to capitalize from downtown—they only hit nine out of 41 attempts from downtown for a 21 percent clip—proved to be the decider.
“Luckily, they didn’t shoot the 3-ball as well as they normally do. And, we were able to control the tempo on the inside, so they weren’t able to get on the transition game as much as I think they would have liked,” Cone said.
“That’s one of the beauties of our team: we can beat you big, we can beat you small. We have enough quality smalls that we can also go small and match up to just about anybody. So the versatility in our team is a weapon for the coaching staff,” he added.
However, Cone clarified that this isn’t the team’s benchmark for success and said that he expects better results as his players slowly get back to fitness.
“Japeth had to leave the floor eventually because he started feeling nauseous and actually went back to the locker room. Joe is not in the shape he needs to be in yet, Sol Mercado also is not in shape. So we’re struggling a little bit,” he said.
“But we’ve got another week now. We gotta get back to hard practice and try to get everybody in shape. But it’s gonna take more than just another week or two, it’s gonna be an on-going thing throughout the conference.”
(Photo credit: PBA Images)