Barangay Ginebra coach Tim Cone downplayed the significance of a "gimmick defense" it deployed against Meralco to come back from a 19-point hole in Game 2 of the PBA Governors' Cup finals Friday in Lucena.
While the Gin Kings managed to turn a blowout in the making into a tight affair down the wire after running box-and-one against the Bolts, Cone said it's not something that's going to keep working for his wards as the series trudges on.
"We had to use a gimmick defense to do it and that's not going to do it for the whole series. We got to get better defensively. We were just a very poor defensive team," he rued.
Down big after Meralco import Allen Durham, who torched them for 14 early on, dictated a strong Bolts start that saw three other players score in double-figures in the first 24 minutes of action, Ginebra opted to go for that seldom-used strategy try and turn things around in the second half.
Primarily run to stop the opposing team's most dangerous offensive option, box-and-one has four players defending in a zone and one player shadowing the scoring threat.
This usually leaves other scoring options open around the perimeter, but with Chris Newsome battling foul trouble and Baser Amer off to a slow start, Ginebra decided to key in on Durham, who had been Meralco's anchor all conference long.
The ploy worked wonders. Durham had seven points the rest of the way, but only had one free throw and two turnovers in a furious third quarter blast where Ginebra managed to tie things up at 70 at one point. Ginebra outscored Meralco 30-19 in that period and while they trailed by six entering the payoff period, that defense put the team in good position to produce against the Bolts in the final 12.
"They went to a box-and-one against him to try and shut him down," coach Norman Black noted. "They put one guy to just shadow him everywhere he went. It's a little bit more difficult for him but he's been carrying us the entire conference, so it's good that his teammates stepped up and really helped him out tonight."
Unfortunately for Ginebra, Meralco was able to adjust accordingly and drew timely production from its bench and Amer, who eventually caught fire after that sluggish start.
After coming up with merely six points in the opening game, Meralco's second unit came alive in front of predominantly Ginebra sellout crowd and poured in 29 points, effectively outsourcing the Gin Kings' bench (12) by a mile.
Nard Pinto accounted for 12 of those after burying four of Meralco's five triples in the first quarter, but Nico Salva and Anjo Caram also came up big in the third to stop the bleeding for the Bolts. Salva, in particular, provided a huge push after not getting the call-up in Game 1 and wound up with nine points and four dimes in 17 minutes.
"The bench gave us a big lift," coach Norman Black observed. "In the last game, they weren't really there but I called Nico Salva off the bench for the first time in a long, long time and he came in and delivered for us. Anjo Caram played well. Nard Pinto was a revelation in the first half, he was scoring the basketball for us. We really got a big lift from the bench tonight and that's what we're gonna need in the series."
Amer also got the job done after a bad Game 1 showing, hitting big triples -- including two straight to restore a double-digit lead with over two minutes left -- to give Meralco cushion. The guard finished with 17 points on 5-for-9 shooting from deep.
"There's nobody happier than me to see Baser really break out and explode against Ginebra," Black admitted. "He was able to make some long three-point shots when he got back in the game in the second half. It really helped stabilize (the game) because they went box-and-one against AD and they were able to get back in the game with that."
After Cone's maneuver, Black said Meralco will work on combating the box-and-one heading into Game 3 on Sunday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
"We'll have box-and-1 offense on Sunday because Tim pulled it out today. We want to do a better job of it on Sunday. We did a pretty good job in the second half once we realized it, but at the same time it changed the momentum of the game. We will be more prepared for next game," he said.
Cone, though, reiterated that it's going to take more than a "gimmick defense" to turn things around in the coming games.
"What can I say? They played really well and we did not play well," said Cone. "They were able to do exactly what they wanted in both games and we were lucky to win the first one and they dominated us here in the second game. At his point, we got a lot to go back to in the drawing board.
"We battled back, which I'm proud of, but that's not going to be enough for this series. Being proud of the guys is not going to win the series for us. We got to do more."