Justin Brownlee dialed back his shots and keyed in on playmaking to propel Barangay Ginebra to a win in Game 3 of the 2019 PBA Governors' Cup finals.
After tallying only one assist against five turnovers in the first two games, Brownlee handed out nine assists in the 92-84 win which gave the Gin Kings a 2-1 series lead.
His last two assists led to big baskets that staved off an impending Meralco comeback. He first found LA Tenorio wide-open on the left wing for a 3-pointer that stretched Ginebra's lead to eight with 1:47 remaining, then he later hit a Japeth Aguilar on a pick-and-roll to seal the score for good with 30 seconds to go.
"They made some good reads, reading the defense, finding the open areas. LA, he came back to his spot and got that open 3. And Japeth, he made a great cut to the basket and used his athleticism to grab the ball and score. It was a great play," said Brownlee.
The import took 26.5 shots in the first two contests but only threw up 20 in Game 3. He also took less 3s, attempting only seven after firing 13 each in Games 1 and 2. Brownlee, though, said there was no conscious effort on his end to up his assists.
"Nah, I was unaware (that I had zero assists in Game 2) until coach (Tim Cone) told me, but it's something I try to not to really focus on," he said. "I do love getting my teammates open shots and things like that. ... I just try to be aggressive and just try to take whatever the defense gives me."
Cone also said the Bolts' defense forced Brownlee out of positions in the first two games that could help him create for his teammates.
"Meralco's done a really good job of not allowing Justin to create by breaking down the defense," Cone said. "They've stayed in front of him, they've used (Allen) Durham as a main weapon against him, and they're just not giving him much penetration. When you can't get penetration into the defense, it's hard to create assists.
"So there's a myriad of reasons why. It's not because Justin doesn't like to pass the ball. We all know he loves to pass, he's a great passer. But the defense was just not letting him create."
For his part, Brownlee said he'll look to keep hunting his teammates on offense as the series rolls on.
"To be honest, (I'm) just (gonna) try to come in and make plays for my teammates and try to get guys going," he said. "I really wanna focus on getting guys going, trying to get guys open looks, and I always try to focus on defense."