Whether this series is scripted or not, the thrilling PBA Commissioner’s Cup Finals between Barangay Ginebra San Miguel and the Bay Area Dragons is set for a storybook ending with a winner-take-all Game 7 at the colossal Philippine Arena.
The return of import Myles Powell for the injured Andrew Nicholson gave Bay Area the boost that it needed to take an 87-84 win over Ginebra in Game 6 to force the seventh and final game of this series.
Powell, who was sidelined by a foot injury, came off the bench for the Dragons in his first game since the closing days of the eliminations last November 23. He did not miss a beat and put up 29 points on 11-of-20 field goal shooting along with five three-pointers, seven rebounds, and three assists in 36 minutes of action.
While Powell’s comeback grabbed all of the headlines, he was actually outplayed by his Ginebra counterpart Justin Brownlee who put on a performance for the ages. The 34-year-old veteran had his second triple double in three games, putting up 37 points on 15-of-30 field goal shooting, 10 rebounds, and 11 assists. Furthermore, he added four three-pointers, four steals, and four blocks to complete his masterful line.
Brownlee’s big evening in the potential clincher was spoiled by Ginebra’s loss as his local teammates were unable to give him enough support. The formula for Ginebra’s wins so far versus Bay Area has been the combination of a big game for Brownlee and at least one local guard.
In the series opener, it was team captain LA Tenorio who stepped up. The 38-year-old point guard turned back the clock with 22 points, two rebounds, three assists, and three steals. Christian Standhardinger added 16 points, 10 rebounds, four assists, and two steals while Scottie Thompson had 14 points, nine rebounds, six assists, a steal, and two blocks.
Come Game 3, it was the 2021 PBA Most Valuable Player Thompson who took the cudgels for Ginebra’s locals. He contributed 14 points, 10 rebounds, four assists, and four steals to complement Bronlee’s 34-point, 17-rebound performance to seal an 89-82 victory. Standhardinger chipped in with 15 points and Jamie Malonzo scored 10 of his own.
It was Stanley Pringle’s turn to shine in Game 5 as the 35-year-old guard took Ginebra’s fans on a trip down memory lane with a 20-point outing. Brownlee had 37 points, eight rebounds, three steals, and four blocks in the win, but it was Pringle who stole the show with his unexpected throwback performance.
One or more of these players will have to replicate their big performances come Game 7 if Ginebra wants to have a chance to upend the mighty Dragons. Beyond Powell, the quartet of Kobey Lam, Hayden Blankley, Glen Yang, and Songwei Zhu have all produced consistently this conference.
These two teams seem to be evenly matched, having alternated wins in this best-of-seven series so far, and the only thing that can be guaranteed for Game 7 is that it will be a historic contest. Ginebra has received an immense push from its significant homecourt advantage, yet Bay Area has markedly grown more comfortable playing in front of the raucous local crowd as these finals have gone on.
The stage is set for Game 7 where Ginebra will vie for its 15th title in franchise history and first Commissioner’s Cup championship since 2018 against this visiting Dragons team that has dominated the rest of the league in this brief guest stint.