LUCENA — Clicking on both ends of the floor, Ginebra gained a head start in the 2017 PBA Governors’ Cup Finals with a 102-87 beatdown of Meralco on Friday to take Game 1 at Quezon Convention Center here.
The Gin Kings exploited their advantage in the frontcourt and pounded the ball in the paint as Justin Brownlee and Japeth Aguilar had their way to help the defending champions establish an early lead they will never surrender.
Game 2 of the best-of-7 championship duel is on Sunday at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Brownlee was all over the floor for Ginebra, going for 32 points on an ultra-efficient 13-of-20 sniping from the field, to go with his 19 rebounds and six assists.
Aguilar added 15 markers, four boards, and three blocks, while Greg Slaughter came off the bench and was once again a huge boost for the Gin Kings, scattering 14 points, eight rebounds, and two rejections.
“We played really well tonight. I thought we controlled the game from pretty much start to finish but you take everything after Game 1 with a real grain of salt. This is not representative of anything as the series goes along,” said coach Tim Cone. “Last time we played Meralco last year, they won Game 1. That’s a cautionary tale for us. We just want to make sure not to make too big of a deal of Game 1 and move forward to Game 2.”
Brownlee orchestrated Ginebra’s late first quarter pullaway, turning a close 18-16 affair with 4:16 remaining to a commanding 29-18 advantage with a killer 11-2 tear to end the opening period.
That scintillating offensive display, coupled with Meralco’s offensive struggles, propelled the Gin Kings as they enjoyed a 17-point lead, 40-23 midway in the second quarter after another Brownlee layup.
Cone didn’t put too much praise on the way Ginebra defended in the game, saying the result was also decided with Meralco’s paltry shooting from rainbow country.
“We hit our shots and they were 2-of-17 from the three-point line in the first half. They’re the number one three-point shooting team and it was an unusual night for them. Let’s give credit to our defense, but they really missed a lot of three-pointers. They’re unfamiliar with the court and the rings and whatever plays into that, but on the other end, we did hit our shots,” he said.
The Bolts, though, eventually found their rhythm in the third quarter, unfurling 38 points in the frame to cut the deficit to its lowest at four, 75-71, on a Mike Tolomia four-point play with 4.9 seconds left in the period.
But Ginebra was quick to recover as Slaughter squeaked in another dunk late in the period to swing the momentum back in Ginebra’s favor as the crowd favorites rekindled their shooting to established a 21-point lead, 96-75, on a booming Brownlee three with 5:05 left to play.
Allen Durham struggled for Meralco as he went 10-of-22 from the field to wound up with 27 points, 14 rebounds, eight assists, and two steals, while Baser Amer got 14 markers and five boards in the loss.