In the wake of the worst shooting night of his PBA career, Barangay Ginebra San Miguel import Justin Brownlee bounced back in a big way in Game 3 of the 2023 PBA Governor’s Cup best-of-seven finals.
Ginebra banked on a fourth quarter run led by Brownlee to pull away from the TNT Tropang Giga and take a 117-103 victory that gave them a 2-1 lead in this series.
The 34-year-old forward finished with a team-high 29 points on 11-of-19 shooting as he bounced back from a 12-point showing in the prior contest where he shot only three-of-16 from the field. Brownlee also had eight rebounds, five assists, a steal, and a block.
While Brownlee’s shooting was quite impressive, it paled in comparison to that of his teammate Stanley Pringle.
Similar to their showdown with the Bay Area Dragons in last January’s PBA Commissioner’s Cup finals, Ginebra head coach Tim Cone made a tactical decision to move Pringle into the starting line-up for this crucial game. The 36-year-old guard did not disappoint and once again played the role of “Magic Bunot” for Cone.
The six-time PBA All-Star had only seven field goal attempts–six of which were three-pointers–over the course of Game 3, but he managed to make each and every one of them. Pringle wound up with 22 points, three rebounds, three assists, and only one turnover. He also had a game-high +/- of +31.
The veteran Pringle came out firing and teamed up with presumptive Best Player of the Conference Christian Standhardinger to set the tone for Ginebra early on. These two players combined to make eight-of-eight field goal attempts in the first quarter to give them an early lead.
TNT then banked on the efforts of their import Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Jayson Castro, and Mikey Williams to claw back and tie the contest at 57 entering halftime.
Come the second half, it was Jamie Malonzo’s turn to flank Brownlee in Ginebra’s scoring attack. The former De La Salle University Green Archer scored 22 of his 27 points in the second half as he helped put away the Tropang Giga for good.
After Hollis-Jefferson hit a lay-up to tie the match at 88 with less than nine minutes remaining in the final period, Ginebra unleashed a 17-6 run in less than four minutes that was bookended by a pair of three-pointers from Brownlee. In between Brownlee’s two threes, Malonzo had two of his own, Pringle hit his sixth of the night, and Thompson made a lay-up. After the smoke cleared, Ginebra held a 105-94 advantage and cruised to victory from that point onwards.
Brownlee, Pringle, and Malonzo combined for 15 of Ginebra’s 18 three-pointers over the course of the evening which dwarfed TNT’s 11 makes. Aside from these three players, their fellow starters Thompson and Standhardinger also came up with strong performances. The 2021 PBA Most Valuable Player Thompson tallied 16 points, 10 rebounds, five assists, two steals, and a block while Standhardinger added 16 points, 10 rebounds, and five assists.
Cone only fielded eight players during the first half, including the returning Japeth Aguilar who saw his first action since February after sitting out with an MCL injury, and trimmed his rotation further for the competitive portion of the final two quarters to just six players. Jeremiah Gray was the lone reserve who saw action for Ginebra while the outcome of the game was still in doubt as he came in late in the third period to spell Pringle.
The heavy minutes that Ginebra’s starters are playing will be a crucial factor moving forward. Cone needs his best players on the floor to keep up with the Tropang Giga, but they may succumb to fatigue as this series enters its latter stages.
Ginebra still needs two wins to clinch the title which means that this series is far from over. They will not shoot at this torrid pace in every game and it will be interesting to see how TNT reacts to this loss. The championship is far from decided and, if anything, this match-up is now heading towards its exciting part.