Even with Magnolia import Nick Rakocevic gone early, Barangay Ginebra was pushed to the limit but escaped blushes in the end.
The Kings stayed patient in a tough defensive battle with the gritty Hotshots and eked out an 87-84 decision in the opener of their PBA Commissioner’s Cup semifinal showdown at the PhilSports Arena in Pasig Wednesday night.
“It’s a struggle and it’s such a mental game out there. Those guys and our guys kept battling. It’s not a pretty game. There were no pogi points as it’s about getting it done, and that’s what our guys did… get it done,” said Ginebra coach Tim Cone.
The Kings held their own in the grind, eventually pulling through as Mark Barroca missed a potential game-tying three-pointer with seven seconds to go.
Cone said they have to brace for the same in Game 2, expecting the Hotshots to wage an even bigger fight on the return of Rakocevic in Friday’s game at the same venue.
The Magnolia import headed to showers ahead of everybody else after incurring a flagrant foul penalty 1 against Christian Standhardinger with just a little over five minutes into the third quarter. He was called a technical foul earlier.
The Serbian mastodon was able to play just 20 minutes and four seconds, putting in 10 points, eight rebounds, two assists, two steals and two blocks against one turnover.