Even without the towering Greg Slaughter in the lanes, the Gin Kings showed they’re better than the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters with an imposing 88-80 triumph Monday night in the PBA Philippine Cup at Mall of Asia Arena.
The Gin Kings are beginning to recover their championship form after struggling big time in the elimination round to gain a decisive headstart in their best-of-three quarterfinal series.
Japeth Aguilar, nursing the piercing pain on his back, more than filled the void left by Slaughter after forcing the Painters to flounder inside the paint.
It was the dynamic duo of Sol Mercado and Scottie Thompson, however, who provided the firepower for the Gin Kings.
Mercado scored all of his 13 points in the second half and Thompson was three assists shy of a triple-double with 14 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists.
Slaughter was sidelined by a sprained ankle and remains doubtful in Wednesday’s Game 2.
Earlier, blue-chip rookie Kiefer Ravena pulled off two decisive plays in the dying seconds as NLEX moved a victory closer to the semifinals with a tight 105-99 win over Alaska.
Ravena stealthily snatched the leather off a jump ball and went straight to the cup with 18.8 seconds left, giving the Road Warriors a safe four-point lead.
Prior to that act of heroism, Ateneo’s two-time UAAP MVP found a cutting Michael Miranda underneath for the go-ahead basket that shifted the momentum to their side after the Aces took control late in the game.
“It was a great team effort,” said Ravena after pouring 12 of his 25 points in the final quarter.