SMART CLARK GIGA CITY — Barangay Ginebra has a chance to sit atop the 2020 PBA Philippine Cup standings all by itself when it crosses paths with fellow title favorites TNT Tropang GIGA this Friday, as the heated playoff race is now turning into a sprint.
The Gin Kings gained a share of the leadership following its 112-100 win over the gritty NorthPort on Wednesday. The same night, the Tropang Giga absorbed a 92-102 beating at the hands of the defensive-minded Magnolia.
Both teams — which have clinched quarterfinal spots — are sporting identical 6-2 cards.
Reaching the top seed, though, is the least of his concerns. Instead, the decorated mentor aims first to clinch one of the Top Four spots, which arms teams with the coveted twice-to-beat advantage for the quarterfinals.
“We’re not really worried about the top seed, we’re worried about Top Four. Tonight’s game was really, really crucial for that Top Four spot,” he said.
“Whether we’re 1, 2, 3, or 4 really does not make that much difference.”
Cone even recalled some times in the past where his team clinched the number one spot but lost. Take B-Meg’s defeat to eventual runners-up Powerade in the 2011-12 Philippine Cup quarterfinals.
His Ginebra also experienced something similar in the 2018 Governors’ Cup. They seemed poised for a three-peat after emerging as the top team at the end of the eliminations — only to bow to Magnolia in the semis.
“In fact, as you guys know, I have not done well with top-seeded teams. We seem to always get beat in the quarters. It happened in Purefoods. It happened in Ginebra. I’m a little wary about that top seed,” he said.
That’s not to say he won’t take it if they do become number one. But the match versus the flagship MVP Group franchise, Cone said, is just a “head-to-head game” that they have to prepare hard for.
“But we’ll take it if we get it. It is just a head-to-head game with Talk N Text. They play a certain style that is a little bit different from ours. They get up and down the floor real well, they take a boatload of three-point shots,” he opined.
“We’re a little bit more of a steady team. We play the tempo game a little bit more, and we try to work the ball, use the clock a little bit longer. It is going to be a real contrast in styles when we play them,” he offered.
“One is not necessarily better than the other — it is really going to come down to who can execute. That is what we’re going to focus on: execution both offensively and execution defensively.”