SMART CLARK GIGA CITY — Close-out games are always the hardest.
Head coach Tim Cone made the observation in reference to Barangay Ginebra San Miguel’s chance to finish off Meralco in Game Four of their best-of-five semifinal series and head to the 2020 PBA Philippine Cup Finals.
“The hardest game to win in a series is the closeout game.
“I find oftentimes Game Fours are harder to win than Game Fives in a five-game series,” the league’s most accomplished mentor said.
The Gin Kings have moved one win away from returning to the all-Filipino finals for the first time in three years following their Game Three victory, Sunday night. And momentum is surely on their side heading into Wednesday.
Still, Cone remains wary of the Bolts’ retaliation.
“It’s gonna be really hard to close them out. They’ve got a great coach over there who’s also been to this kind of wars and been to this situation. And he’s got a young hungry core that’s listening to him and playing for him,” he said.
It showed in Game Three. The Bolts came back from as much as 25 points down and came within just six in the dying seconds. Time was not on their side, though, and the Barangay bagged the 91-84 win.
Besides the anticipated fightback from a desperate Meralco crew, Cone and his coaches also do not want their players to fall into the dangerous pit of complacency.
“It’s parang… For us, we have a cushion — may kusyon, you know — and we can… Parang, we can be a little bit kampante. And that’s what we have to fight as coaches: to make sure that our guys don’t fall into that trap,” he said.
“But it’s human nature. Trap. And it’s very, very difficult not to fall into it. That’s why closeout games are always so hard. The other group is always so desperate and it’s hard to meet their intensity.”