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It’s not often that a team with a twice-to-beat disadvantage manages to survive a playoff series in the PBA. Before Ginebra San Miguel did the improbable in eliminating Rain Or Shine last Monday, only eight of 65 teams overcame the odds to stay alive – a daunting 12.5 percent success rate.
PBA statistics guru Fidel Mangonon said the PBA used the quarterfinal twice-to-beat format starting the 1996 Governors Cup. The advantage is a reward for a team that finishes higher during the eliminations. In the NBA playoffs, there is no such thing as a twice-to-beat edge – a higher seed gains the homecourt advantage, nothing else. In the PBA, the homecourt advantage is irrelevant because the games are played in a common venue.
Of the eight teams that defied the odds, three were No. 8 seeds that beat top seeds – Ginebra over Mobiline in the 1999 All-Filipino Cup, San Miguel Beer over Talk ‘N’ Text in the 2002 Governors Cup and Powerade over B-Meg in the 2011-12 Philippine Cup. Ginebra accounted for two of the eight “miracles” – over Mobiline in 1999 and Purefoods in the 2001 All-Filipino Cup.
After Ginebra’s shocker over Rain Or Shine, the never-say-die franchise now holds the distinction of being the team with the most twice-to-beat handicaps to survive the playoffs. Ginebra has done it thrice.
For the record, 43 teams with a twice-to-beat advantage didn’t need another game to pull through while 14 clinched in the rematch. It’s not easy for a lower seed to survive a twice-to-beat disadvantage because that means winning two straight do-or-die games. The higher seed can afford to lose the first game, regroup, adjust and return the favor in the second even if there might have been a momentum shift.
Veteran guard Jay-Jay Helterbrand said it was an act of God that settled the outcome last Monday and called Ginebra’s 81-79 squeaker miraculous. The Painters had one chance to win it outright with a three-pointer and three chances to send it into overtime but muffed four consecutive attempts to score in the last 11 seconds.
The first try was a Jeff Chan layup on a penetration and Ginebra import Vernon Macklin swatted it away – his only blocked shot the entire contest. There were six seconds left on the clock and Rain Or Shine worked the ball to the corner where Paul Lee bombed from beyond the three-point arc. The ball bounced off the rim and landed in Chan’s hands. Chan was wide open underneath and hurriedly, threw up a shot off the glass with his shooting hand, the left. The angle was off-target and the ball didn’t bounce in. Gabe Norwood had a shot at a follow but he, too, was denied, preserving Ginebra’s two-point margin.
It didn’t seem likely that Ginebra would survive the quarters after ending the eliminations on a sour note, losing a 100-86 decision to Talk ‘N’ Text with Macklin limited to 12 points and nine rebounds. Besides, Ginebra previously lost to Rain Or Shine even as Macklin outdueled Bruno Sundov, 27 points to 12 and 16 rebounds to five. The Painters got the job done with balanced scoring as six players scored in double figures compared to four for Ginebra. Coach Yeng Guiao’s bench delivered 42 points to Ginebra’s 24.
Last Saturday, Ginebra battled back from a 15-point deficit in the third period to upset Rain Or Shine, 90-83, at the SM MOA Arena. A loss to the Painters would’ve sent Ginebra to an early vacation. Ginebra was down by 11 at the half as Rain Or Shine dictated the pace behind Sundov’s 19 points. Then, in the third quarter, Ginebra clamped down on defense, doubling and sometimes tripling Sundov and trapping the ball carrier. The lead was trimmed to four entering the fourth period then Helterbrand took over with 13 points in the last 12 minutes. Coach Alfrancis Chua used a guard combination of L. A. Tenorio, Josh Urbiztondo and Helterbrand to finish off Rain Or Shine with a flourish.
Moving Tenorio to the two-guard spot with Urbiztondo at the point kept him fresh for the stretch run. And with Helterbrand waxing hot, Tenorio had even more rest on the bench before Chua brought him back in for the final bang. Tenorio hit a key triple in the homestretch to ice it. The glaring stat in that game was Ginebra’s 31-2 edge in turnover points with Rain Or Shine committing 23 miscues to the Kings’ 11. Kerby Raymundo and Rudy Hatfield played major roles in contributing to the win.
Last Monday, it was Macklin’s turn to shine at the Smart Araneta Coliseum. His redemption was due. V-Mac banked in a one-hander from an offensive rebound to tie it, 79-all, with 31.6 ticks left then sank two pressure free throws to put Ginebra in front. Macklin wound up with 24 points, 16 rebounds, six assists and a blocked shot in 47 minutes. Sundov had 12 points and six rebounds in 28 minutes.
Sundov was wary of being doubled or tripled and stayed away from the low block, giving Macklin an advantage in rebounding position. That adjustment proved to be detrimental to the Painters’ cause. Ginebra won the battle of the boards, 58-50, and even if the Kings missed nine free throws, the extra possessions from five more offensive rebounds led to more field goal attempts – enough of a cushion to seal the victory.
Ginebra’s resiliency and character were severely tested. Chua said Macklin had family issues to contend with back in the US but decided to stick it out with the team. Tenorio, playing with a sprained elbow, went 1-of-12 from the field and Urbiztondo was 1-of-6. Mark Caguioa was still out of commission. Billy Mamaril played sparingly last Saturday and didn’t check in last Monday. Dylan Ababou, recovering from an ACL tear, begged to suit up and join Caguioa on the bench even if he couldn’t play. Chris Ellis, Raymundo, Mac Baracael, Helterbrand and Hatfield provided the local support for Macklin and Chua put the pieces together for the winning brew.
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