It goes without saying that the Game 1 loss bothered the Bay Area Dragons quite a bit.
Dominant as they have been throughout the 2022-2023 Honda PBA Commissioner’s Cup, the Dragons were pushed around in the opening game of the Commissioner’s Cup Finals. Obviously Bay Area, through head coach Brian Goorjian, lamented on things beyond their control, but they vowed to render Justin Brownlee ineffective in Game 2.
It seems, however, that they did quite the opposite.
The Dragons took the approach of letting Brownlee and Brownlee alone win the game for the Barangay Ginebra Gin Kings. At various points in Game 2, it did seem that Brownlee could will the Gin Kings back into the game but a huge second quarter from Bay Area proved to be too much to overcome.
Apart from Brownlee, who finished with 32 points, 11 rebounds, and three assists, only Jaime Malonzo (10 points) finished in double-figures. On the whole, Ginebra’s offense was stagnant to say the least, as none of the Gin Kings who attempted more than four shots made more than 44 percent of their field goal attempts.
Championship series are won and lost by adjustments, or the lack thereof. Game 1 was a reminder for the Dragons that Philippine basketball is different from international basketball and the physicality from that game was something that heavily accounted into Bay Area’s approach in Game 2.
In bringing the physicality on both ends of the floor, the Dragons were able to get to the free throw line more (21-5) while also putting Brownlee in foul trouble. Brownlee thus had to adjust and he and the Gin Kings were obviously rattled by what was a rare occasion for them to be on the receiving end.
Great coaches also find ways to lock down opponents oftentimes by removing a vital piece off the board. One way of looking at it is leveling the playing field, but when done well, it goes at the core of the team and renders any response pretty much ineffective. Limiting Brownlee sounded well and good, but doing so seemed to be an impossible task. The next best thing was to make Brownlee the only positive contributor, so much so that a pass from him was basically a defensive stop. The vital piece, then, wasn’t a player, but the potential points that Brownlee passed up for a teammate.
Ginebra will likely adjust in Game 3, which is pretty much a week away. Offense will obviously be on the main agenda as a Brownlee-centric offense will only go as far as its effects on the rest of the Gin Kings. The likes of Scottie Thompson and LA Tenorio need to rediscover their shots, while Stanley Pringle and Japeth Aguilar, who both combined for only nine shot attempts in Game 2, need to have more touches offensively.
On Bay Area’s part, keeping the same energy is a must, considering how it stymied Ginebra as a whole. Obviously, the Gin Kings will be ready in a week’s time, but they have the personnel to stay with Ginebra players not named Brownlee, Malonzo, and Thompson. The latter two have been on and off in this series, but their importance lies in their ability to get points off loose balls, missed shots, and on the break. The Dragons have done a great job of limiting the Gin Kings to only eight fastbreak points for the entire series, but declines in their points in the paint (from 48 to 32) and second chance points (19 to 12) snuffed the wind out of Ginebra’s sails.
The Bay Area Dragons got pushed around in Game 1 of the 2022-2023 Honda PBA Commissioner’s Cup Finals and decided to do some shoving of their own in Game 2. With the series now even at 1-1, it’s back to square one on paper although the Dragons hold the momentum. It’s fair to say that we have a series, but Bay Area has a chance to make it THEIR series when the calendar flips to 2023.