For the Bay Area Dragons, adjust and survive has been the mantra as they navigate through the 2022-2023 Honda PBA Commissioner’s Cup. The next move has been as important as the last one, and it has pretty much helped them move in lockstep with the Barangay Ginebra Gin Kings.
In the end, all that back and forth has led us to this: Game 7. We’re at the point in the series where both teams are tired, dealing with injuries, and trying every trick in the book just to gain an inch over the other.
Game 6 saw the Dragons’ strategy win out, as the insertion of Myles Powell into the lineup handed Bay Area an 87-84 win over the Gin Kings and forced a winner-take-all Game 7 on Sunday in the Philippine Arena.
The different look Powell provides was very much evident as the 29 points, seven rebounds, and three assists the former Philadelphia 76er finished with off the bench only tell part of the story. As a team, the Dragons made 47 percent of their 3-point shots, making up for their mediocre shooting from the interior. Even though Powell was not in game shape, Ginebra really respected the 2022 consensus first-team All-American and he was more than willing to make the right pass or draw the defense to get his teammates open shots.
Things worked out for Bay Area, who pretty much had no choice but to bring in Powell. It certainly shifted the direction of the series for the Dragons, who will now have a more perimeter oriented attack that will feed into their interior offense. Despite sporting a short-handed backcourt, Bay Area also won the rebounding battle (49-47), keeping the same energy with Powell helping on the boards.
The Gin Kings would have loved that type of balance and energy the Dragons had. Ginebra has been overly dependent on Justin Brownlee (although rightly so) to the point that the presumptive naturalized Filipino played all but 38 seconds of game time. Apart from Brownlee (37 points), only Christan Standhardinger (12 points) and Jaime Malonzo (four points) made 50 percent of their field goal attempts. Consistency (or lack thereof) was something the Gin Kings missed in this game. This of course, does not excuse work on the defense, as Hayden Blankley (23 points on six 3-pointers) punished the Ginebra defense whenever he had even a sliver of space to shoot.
That the PBA moved Game 7 from Friday to Sunday certainly helps both banged-up squads rest and recover. Like Andrew Nicholson, who Powell was swapped in for due to a left ankle injury, a foot injury is reportedly what kept the 25-year old on the shelf. Him and Glen Yang, who too was sidelined with a sprained ankle returned in this game, but giving them time to rest before the final game of the Commissioner’s Cup will only bode well for them.
From a coaching standpoint, more time is also a good thing. Both Tim Cone and Brian Goorjian can implement their adjustments from Game 6 and find any additional points in the additional film sessions. This aspect is often an underappreciated and unobserved one, but it can prove equally important. Players win the games, but coaches put their players in the best position to succeed. Even a little pointer here and there could spell the difference between capitalizing on a mismatch and falling prey to a problem a player and a team cannot solve. In a way, it’s a masterclass in coaching for the assistants on the sidelines (who also had an effort in this) and those watching from the outside.
The two best words in sports are “Game 7” and the PBA will have its second Game 7 in as many finals series. Like the 2022 Honda PBA Philippine Cup Finals, the 2022-2023 Honda PBA Commissioner’s Cup Finals offers no shortage of big-game performances, stellar strategies, and drama.
Myles Powell’s return (and its effect) is the latest chapter in the championship series between the Barangay Ginebra Gin Kings and the Bay Area Dragons and given the back and forth between both teams, it would be interesting to see what each one still has up their sleeves.