With over 14,000 fans watching Game 3 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum, coupled by the millions of televiewers glued at their TV sets, basketball-crazy fans were treated to a heckuva game between Barangay Ginebra and Meralco.
The game was generally tight with the biggest lead at nine points only.
For the third straight game, the winning margin was within five points.
But to the dismay of the majority in attendance, the Bolts escaped with a 107-103 win to grab a 2-1 lead in their best-of-seven PBA Governors Cup title series.
So, what things worked for the Bolts that propelled them to the win? Let’s examine them one by one.
· Their three-point shooting was superb
The Bolts finished 12-of-30 from downtown, including crucial makes from Reynell Hugnatan, who hit three of seven from deep.
All his three conversions occurred with less than three minutes in the fourth quarter. Aside from “Papa Rey”, Jimmy Alapag also found his shooting stroke in this game. Alapag connected on four-of-seven three-pointers, with a couple of those launched from the parking lot. Heck, even Cliff Hodge made two trifectas.
· Durham went to work
He finished with 36 points, 20 rebounds and only had 2 turnovers. Obviously, he had a MUCH better game this time around compared to Game 2 where he had 22 points and 7 turnovers. He was also very efficient with his shots (12-of-24) and he operated patiently at the low post, which resulted to a couple of his primary defenders getting into foul trouble (Aguilar and Mercado).
· The backcourt tandem of Alapag and Chris Newsome exploded
They combined for 40 points, 8 rebounds and 13 assists while only having 3 turnovers. They shot well from the field and hit timely shots for the Bolts. Moreover, they controlled the pace of the game for Meralco and they made sound decisions with the basketball.
So, Ginebra lost but they still did some things correctly. What worked for Ginebra?
· The “magic bunot” on Jervy Cruz and Chris Ellis
The duo came off the bench and helped Ginebra stay within striking distance of Meralco during the fourth period.
Cruz and Ellis combined for eight points and five rebounds with majority of the production coming from Jervy. He was active around the paint and he battled for offensive rebounds and that resulted into a couple of garbage points.
· The Kings won the rebound battle again for the third straight game
They finished with a +5 advantage in total boards. They were led by Brownlee and Thompson who both ended with double-doubles. They also had a +11 lead on second chance points. Crashing the boards really works for Ginebra, most of the time. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen in Game 3.
· Ginebra pounded the paint and they attacked the lane with impunity
They know that the Bolts don’t have a shot blocker outside of Durham, so pounding the ball in the middle was the best way to score. It worked because they scored 64 points in the paint while Meralco only had 38 points in the paint. Additionally, Ginebra’s outside shot wasn’t falling with regularity, so higher percentage shots in the shaded area made a lot of sense.
On the other hand, what things did NOT work for the Bolts?
· Jonathan Uyloan and Baser Amer struggled making baskets
They combined for just four points on obe-of-six shooting. Surprisingly, Anjo Caram wasn’t used in this game after seeing some action in Game 2. Furthermore, Jared Dillinger wasn’t fielded in as well. Dillinger was in uniform and there were reports that he was ready to play. Maybe Coach Norman will play him on Friday.
· Coach Norman went with a somewhat short rotation
He played 10 guys but majority of the minutes went to four of their starters. Cliff Hodge played the least with 38:12 minutes of action and Jimmy Alapag played close to 29 minutes, his most in the Finals. With only a one-day break between the next game, fatigue might hurt his team on Friday. On the other hand, Ginebra had more balance with their minutes.
Luckily for Meralco, getting clobbered in the paint and losing the rebounding battle did not hurt them too much because they won the game. However, they really need to do better in those areas because they cannot expect to win the Finals by constantly getting outworked in the shaded lane.
Finally, what should Ginebra focus on as they focus on taking Game 4?
- They need more firepower from the locals
Their second leading local scorer heading into Game 3 was Mark Caguioa. He finished with zero points. Meanwhile, Game 2 hero Sol Mercado struggled with foul trouble and ended with four points.
Key reserve Joe Devance only managed five points after scoring in double figures in Game 2. The Kings need to help Brownlee.
- Brownlee was aggressive from the start but he took way too many outside shots
He attempted 38 field goals, including 4 of 13 from three. Maybe it was by design (which I doubt) but Brownlee should vary his shot attempts. He ought to attack the paint more and fish for fouls. He was only given two-of-three free throws which signified that he wasn’t driving to the hoop often enough.
- Their perimeter defense and closeouts toward shooters have to improve
They cannot allow the Bolts to shoot open jumpers, even if Reynel Hugnatan or Cliff Hodge takes the shot because these guys have shown the ability to make jumpers.
-Rolly Mendoza writes opinion pieces for FOX Sports related to basketball
Follow him on Twitter: @rollzter