On a joyous Easter Sunday in Manila, the Barangay Ginebra Gin Kings went on the hunt for a victory in Game 1 of the 2023 Honda PBA Governors’ Cup Finals and came away with quite the win over the TNT Tropang Giga.

The Gin Kings were in control for much of Game 1 and asserted themselves on offense, relying on a balanced attack to take down the Tropang Giga in the finals opener. Every Ginebra player who played relevant minutes scored, with the Gin Kings’ winning formula stemming from a great shooting night from behind the 3-point line (41 percent on 36 attempts) that trickled down to the other parts of their offense.

Try as they might, TNT could only do so much against Justin Brownlee and the rest of Ginebra. The naturalized Filipino forward had a stellar 3-point shooting night (54 percent on 11 attempts) and wasn’t fazed by the defense (or the defenders) that he faced.

The series is obviously far from over, but a win like this gives the Gin Kings confidence. That Brownlee, Jaime Malonzo (21 points, eight rebounds, and four assists), Christian Standhardinger (16 points and 11 rebounds), reigning PBA MVP Scottie Thompson (10 points, 13 rebounds, and 11 assists), and even Stanley Pringle (11 points) all had great games more than offset Jeremiah Gray’s forgettable night (six points on 16 shot attempts). 


Managing fouls was also a major factor as those that were able to stay on the court prevailed. Both Brownlee and Standhardinger were saddled with at least three fouls by the third quarter, with the former having four. However, they wouldn’t add to their tallies and helped put away the Tropang Giga in the end. Meanwhile, Poy Erram fouled out early in the fourth quarter, further depleting an overmatched TNT frontline that was missing Kelly Williams and had lost Justin Chua to a knee injury in the first quarter.

A war of attrition can do that and while there is strength in numbers, it’s not exactly what it seems. The Tropang Giga fielded 11 players, nine of whom scored. On the other hand, the Gin Kings only 10 players yet only eight played more than a minute. All of those eight Ginebra players scored, which goes to show that it may be more about who maximizes the most out of their roster rather than deploying a platoon.

Moving forward, what’s next for the Gin Kings? One is to explore a longer rotation of players. Ginebra was fortunate that a handful of their players were at their best in Game 1. The series would be a cinch if this effort is sustained but in reality, TNT will adjust and the shots won’t always fall. Foul trouble could also prove to be the thorn on their side this time.

Gin Kings head coach Tim Cone and the rest of the coaching staff will review the tape and look at areas that could become relevant in Game 2 and adjust accordingly. Calvin Oftana, who had 16 points in the loss, may become an even more integral factor especially if he can do damage against the Ginebra frontline.

The Gin Kings’ short rotation would also appreciate the rest they can get in between Games 1 and 2. Both teams aren’t at full strength and Ginebra could finish this series without Japeth Aguilar (MCL Sprain) and LA Tenorio, who is on the mend after being diagnosed with colon cancer. Their depth takes a hit, but if there’s any silver lining to this, these medical issues happening earlier in the conference gave the likes of Thompson, Brownlee, and Standhardinger opportunities to step up.

The Barangay Ginebra Gin Kings drew first blood in their 2023 Honda PBA Governors’ Cup Finals series against the TNT Tropang Giga and like in all matchups, good starts won’t matter if they aren’t followed by great finishes. The Gin Kings already saw what worked and they will have to continue to put the pressure on the Tropang Giga in order to end the season with a trophy in hand.