Barangay Ginebra didn’t really have any incentive to go hard against NorthPort in their final PBA Philippine Cup elimination game on Wednesday.
With the third-seed all locked up and a matchup with perennial rival Magnolia all set in the quarterfinals, head coach Tim Cone opted to reduce his main core’s minutes and give their supporting cast an extended run.
Of course, that still wasn’t an excuse for the Gin Kings to slack off.
“We were Ginebra. We never say die. Every game we’re out there, we owe it to our fans to go out there and play. We’re weren’t just going to walk with those emotions and let this game run away from us,” Cone said after the loss.
NorthPort eventually booked their ticket to the quarterfinals with Robert Bolick coming up huge in the clutch, but the league’s winningiest coach thought that how Ginebra played in a non-bearing game was a good show of character.
“The way we played was more important than winning the basketball game for us,” Cone continued. “Obviously it won’t be that way in the playoffs but for tonight, playing hard and playing the right way was the priority and the goal. So I think we achieved that goal.”
Ginebra can now look forward to an early playoff clash against the Hotshots, who kicked them out of the 2018 Governors’ Cup semifinals in four games last year.
Magnolia clinched the No. 6 spot after clobbering NLEX earlier that night.
“They’re playing at a high level. They’ve recovered back from their championship hangover and they’re ready to move forward. Obviously they wanted to play us. They blew out their opponent so they could have an opportunity to play against us. We know that. We’re sister teams but we’re not friendly,” Cone noted.
The Hotshots, winners of three straight to end the elimination round, will be a dangerous draw for the Gin Kings, but Cone is confident that they can match up well with them seeing how in-form his squad looks heading into the playoffs.
“We’ve got two days now to prepare for Magnolia. Last series we played, they beat us up. They beat us three games out of four. We gotta come out and be ready for them. I thought this game prepared us. Let’s see what happens,” he said.
“We’ve won five in a row and lost tonight, we’ve won six of seven before lost tonight, and we played pretty well in a non-bearing game. I think we’re kind of in a roll too. That’s why I think it’s gonna be a great series.”