LUCENA — Anticipating the nerves to come on Friday, Greg Slaughter was as cool as ever when he played his first championship game in his professional career.
“I didn’t feel too much pressure,” he admitted.
Slaughter settling down really was instrumental in Ginebra’s 102-87 Game 1 victory over Meralco, as the former Rookie of the Year came off the bench and poured 14 points, eight rebounds, and two blocks.
The whole Gin Kings crew likewise looked poised from the get-go, controlling the game from start to finish to draw first blood in the 2017 PBA Governors’ Cup Finals.
“We played a good team game today, played good team defense. Everyone chipped in and did their part,” said Slaughter, who is clear frontrunner for this conference’s Best Player plum.
But in the eyes of coach Tim Cone, Slaughter was more than just a piece of the puzzle. He was the x-factor for the Kings when the Bolts were making a third quarter uprising.
“They had a hard time covering him. He was a real difference for us tonight,” said the two-time Grand Slam-winning mentor.
After Mike Tolomia completed a three-point play with 4.9 seconds remaining to help Meralco cut what was once a 17-point lead down to as small as four, 75-71, Ginebra immediately went to Slaughter, who slammed the ball home just before the buzzer to swing the momentum back to his side.
Ginebra then quickly got its bearings together early in the fourth quarter and pulled away for good.
Cone, though, challenged Slaughter to sustain this level of play for the rest of the series.
“I thought he looked really good tonight. I hope he could continue that, but it’s tough to keep that up for seven games,” he said.
But Slaughter knows that the championship will not just revolve around him as the Gin Kings brace for a tougher Meralco side in Game 2 on Sunday.
“We only got one day to turn around. The good thing about winning is they are the ones that have to adjust to us. We can improve on our game plan, but being up gives us the advantage because the loser has to adjust to the winner,” he said.