Ginebra bucks slow start against Meralco for 2nd straight win
MANILA, Philippines - The arena wasn't packed and the crowd wasn't as rowdy. The atmosphere was generally calm and steady with occasional bursts of thrill.
This wasn't a big playoffs game with huge implications. But it was part of the little things, the baby steps of Barangay Ginebra San Miguel towards the kind of team they envision for themselves.
Starting off slow, cold, and even seemingly lost at times, Ginebra found their rhythm in the second quarter and repulsed the Meralco Bolts, 95-82, on Saturday, May 24 at the Mall of Asia Arena to claim their second consecutive victory in as many games in the 2014 PLDT Home Telpad PBA Governors' Cup.
Grabbing the upper hand right off the gates, the Bolts raced to a 12-2 tally early in the first before they were chased down by the Gin Kings to come to within a point, 13-12.
But Meralco's good mood on offense was not to be hindered as they pushed on for a 28-18 lead to end the first.
For head coach Jeff Cariaso, this game, and that first quarter shakiness, are all part of Ginebra's learning curve.
"It's really obvious when I say this but every game is different. Even when you're in a series, it's different," Cariaso explained. "What I like about tonight is us going through a hard time early in the first quarter. We persevered."
And persevere they did, giving the Bolts a dose of their own medicine with a 28-point second frame-production, all while clamping down defensively to douse water on Meralco's hot shooting and keep them at just 15 points.
It was at the 4:40 mark of the second that Ginebra took the driver's seat, 36-35, on a Greg Slaughter bucket. Before the Bolts could find their bearings, Mac Baracael followed up with a big left corner trey, 39-35, as his team went on to end the half on top, 46-43.
Baracael eventually finished the game with 11 points on a perfect 3-of-3 from beyond the arc, while the 7-foot Slaughter racked up 22 markers along with 10 boards, 3 assists and 4 blocks.
Although able to keep in step with Ginebra, the Bolts failed to regain control as they muffed easy baskets and struggled against the defense of guys like LA Tenorio, Dylan Ababou and Emman Monfort.
The usually high-scoring Tenorio finished only with 4 points and 4 assists. But in spite of his unusual silence so far in the Governors' Cup, Cariaso said he doesn't think the speedy playmaker is in a slump.
"I don't think he's struggling. I think he played well against Gary David today. He was our chaser," Cariaso explained.
He said Tenorio was able to limit David's production to just 12 points in this game when he could have easily dropped 30. Cariaso noted that David's points came mostly from inside as he tried to exploit his height advantage on Tenorio for offensive rebounds.
"We took away his strength. His strength is to go outside and LA did a good job in what we call chasing him and defending him and making it hard for him to shoot."
At halftime, Cariaso said he emphasized consistency on defense to his players, pointing out that Meralco was able to stay in the game due to Ginebra relaxing every few possessions.
His team responded and by the fourth quarter, Ginebra had already established a rhythm that was practically unbreakable, even though Meralco made some runs.
"What I'm most proud of is today we just stuck with the system," Cariaso said. "We didn't change the way we play or how I want them to play and somehow, some way we found a way to keep it close and then eventually ran away towards end of the third and start of the fourth."
Ginebra maintained their intensity in rebounding from their first win over Globalport, collaring down 57 rebounds and 18 offensive ones in this game, which translated to 12 second chance points.
An improvement in their execution of the triangle was also noticeable, especially in limiting their previous 21 turnovers to only 12 in this game - a fact Cariaso was particularly happy about.
Import Zaccheus Mason topscored for the game with 32 points and 19 rebounds. His counterpart at Meralco had 26 markers and 11 boards.
Cliff Hodge and Jared Dillinger contributed 19 and 11 points, respectively.
The Bolts still couldn't crack the win column as they remained winless in 3 outings.
Ginebra, meanwhile, will continue putting one foot in front of the other.
"Our goal is to be better every day, be better every game," Cariaso said. "So I think tonight we were better against a better team all around. We needed to play this way."
Ginebra 95 - Mason 32, Slaughter 22, Baracael 11, Ellis 9, Aguilar 4, Tenorio 4, Caguioa 4, Monfort 3, Reyes 2, Helterbrand 2, Mamaril 2, Ababou 0.
Meralco 82 - Williams 26, Hodge 19, David 12, Dillinger 11, Hugnatan 8, Ildefonso 2, Caram 2, Wilson 2, Timberlake 0, Salvacion 0.
Quarter scores: 18-28; 46-43; 68-61; 95-82.