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THERE would be no Barangay Ginebra collapse this time and Vernon Macklin made sure of that.
Rising above what coach Alfrancis Chua said were “cheap shots” from some Talk N Text players, Macklin scored a career-high 37 points in the fourth quarter and lifted the Kings to a pulsating 104-101 victory Friday that forced a decider in their PBA Commissioner’s Cup semifinals duel at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
LA Tenorio and Kerby Raymundo provided some endgame points of their own but it was his team’s defense and Macklin atoning for losing his cool early on that Chua largely credited for the win that tied the best-of-five series at two games apiece.
Game 5 is set 6:15 p.m., also at the Big Dome.
“Vernon was really the biggest factor for us in this game,” said Chua of Macklin, who also finished with 12 rebounds and four assists despite sitting out three minutes of the third period due to a flagrant foul 1 slapped on him.
The call was made after Macklin pushed Ranidel de Ocampo to the floor at the 6:44 mark of the quarter, but Chua said that was precipitated by the Tropang Texter trying to get their import’s goat.
“He was hit in the groin and then binigyan ng head butt,” related Chua. “I told Vernon, ‘Your composure’ and he said: ‘He can’t hit my nut.’ Tapos inulo pa.”
Chua added Ryan Reyes gave Macklin a couple of punches that went unseen by the referees. “Those are cheap shots,” the coach fumed. “We’re gonna play hard, but we’re not gonna hurt like that, putting the career of another player in jeopardy.”
Tony Mitchell was also the recipient of some physical plays but still came up with 45 points in a big followup to his 29-point debut in a 98-80 victory in Game 3. But he missed six of his last seven shots, including all four in the stretch, and also wound up with eight turnovers.
It was Macklin himself who broke the tie and, following misses by Jayson Castro and Mitchell, Tenorio practically iced the game with two charities, only 14.3 seconds left.
Reyes made it a two-point game, but Raymundo capped his 12-point output with a charity that put the game to bed, only 2.1 ticks left, to the delight of the predominantly pro-Ginebra crowd of 14,411 paying fans.
Unlike in Game 3, when three local players scored at least 15 points for TNT and helped turn the game around starting in the third period, only De Ocampo scored in double digits this time with 12.
The reverse was true of Ginebra as Jayjay Helterbrand, Tenorio and Chris Ellis scored at least 12 points.
The Kings also managed to whittle their rebounding deficit to just 42-44 from the 19-board difference in Game 3 and they also had 23 assists to just 10 the last time.
The fact his team shot 33-for-72 from the field, including 7-for-20 from beyond the arc, also pleased Chua.
“Last game we made some adjustments but we can’t make the outside shots. Du’n kami nahirapan. This time, we made our outside shots and we moved the ball better,” said Chua.
For a long while, the specter of the Game 3 loss hovered over Ginebra as it saw TNT steadily chip away at a deficit of as much as 63-74 prior to Macklin’s forced sidelining.
Mitchell was at the forefront of that Texters charge as he scattered 11 of his own 15 fourth quarter points during a 13-9 exchange that gave them a 94-90 lead, still 5:15 to go.
Ginebra would not wilt this time, however.
Twice Macklin strung up four points, the last two off a fastbreak dunk, to tie the count at 99 and, after Mitchell’s free throws, defied two defenders with his sohrt stab off a spin. (NC)
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