Many favored San Miguel would take Game 1. But not like this.
The Beermen dominated Barangay Ginebra San Miguel wire-to-wire to draw first blood in the 2017 Oppo PBA Philippine Cup finals on Friday.
San Miguel was relentless from the opening tip, working their offensive schemes like clockwork and hounding the Kings on defense to gain control early in the game. The Beermen never let up and took a 60-39 lead at the break. The second half was no different as San Miguel piled on the points, reaching a lead as high as 36.
It was total domination, and there was nothing Barangay Ginebra could do about it. One play encapsulated how San Miguel wanted Game 1 so bad: when Ronald Tubid dove for the ball to stop Chris Ellis from getting a fastbreak basket. Even if they already had the game in the bag, the Beermen kept pushing, on both on offense and defense. And they kept attacking, evident in their domination in the paint (60-40).
Simply said, they were on a mission to destroy the crowd favorite. The result? A 109-82 victory.
It was the most lopsided PBA finals game and opener since the 2015 Governors’ Cup when San Miguel handed Alaska a 108-78 beating. It was also the third worst loss in finals history for the Ginebra franchise, and coach Tim Cone’s worst finals defeat in almost 20 years.
Before the series started, Cone already knew SMB’s starting five would give him a massive headache. If you found a way to limit Fajardo, he said, the other four guys would step up and kill you in other ways. And that’s what happened tonight. But this time, Tubid and Gabby Espinas also did some damage off the bench.
Did Ginebra lose that bad because they were tired?
“Kung fatigue factor tinitignan nila, kami din e,” SMB coach Leo Austria said.
At the finals press conference the other day, Austria was asked if he would keep playing his starters heavy minutes, and he said he would continue to do so because his players want to win another title.
After going through hell in their series versus TNT, the Beermen were also fatigued. But it didn’t show, and because they blew the game wide open, it gave Austria a chance to rest his stars early. No SMB starter played more than 30 minutes in Game 1.
But Austria and his troops know there’s still much work to be done. They expect the “never say die” Kings to put up a better fight on Sunday.
“Game 1 is not an assurance that you will win the series. But it gives us some psychological advantage or some kind of momentum,” Austria said.
“The war is not yet over.”