Barangay Ginebra San Miguel has always been more comfortable in the underdog role.
But after a strong showing in the PBA Commissioner’s Cup elimination round, the Kings found themselves as the No. 1 seed in these playoffs and that has affected their mentality.
With their backs against the wall in Game 3 after losing the first two games of the semifinals, though, Ginebra seemed to have found that old underdog within.
“We played the way we envisioned, a lot better today than we had over the first two games. I think a lot of that might have been being the No. 1 seed, the burden of being the No.1 seed, the pressure that goes along with it. Our expectations were too high for ourselves,” Ginebra coach Tim Cone said during the postgame interview.
“I think today we were kinda had an underdog mentality after losing the first two games and that helped us. Hopefully, that will carry on.”
Ginebra looked nothing like the team that was pushed to the brink of a series sweep, going on a blistering 19-0 run in the second quarter and leading by over 20 points for most of the second half.
Ginebra team captain LA Tenorio believes being in that position brought out the best in the Kings.
“Mas pabor sa amin, para sa akin, yung kami yung underdog,” Tenorio told InterAksyon.
“Kasi yung focus namin and yung sense of urgency as a team andun. Talagang lahat locked in talaga sa lahat ng ginagawa namin. No room for error, doon kami mas nagiging focused.”
Tenorio admits that the ‘never-say-die’ Kings are more comfortable playing from behind than they are as No. 1 seed.
“Siguro mas okay na nasa ilalim kami eh. Mas sanay kami na nasa ilalim kami. Parang yung sense of urgency, wala doon (kapag top seed ka),” he said.
“Parang subconsciously, so tama rin (si Coach Tim). Parang yung focus, hindi ganun ka-focused knowing na No. 1 kami. Parang may burden na No.1 kami. Parang may time na iniisip namin na kaya namin kasi No.1 kami,” added Tenorio.
In Game 3, the Kings came out loose despite playing in a no-tomorrow encounter. Tenorio hopes that is something that will continue in the coming games.
“Yung pressure tinanggal namin, nilaro lang namin. You’ll see us doing that in the next game. Wala kaming special na gagawin. We just have to play our game, kung ano yung naging successful that made us No.1 during the eliminations,” he said.
And though they’ll be pleased with this win, Cone reminded that holding off a sweep doesn’t quite count as an achievement yet.
“We haven’t done anything. We were in the same boat with Star and we got it the same way and we’re both 1-2. But whether you’re coming off from a loss or coming off a win is the same thing. We played better tonight and we hope we could carry over. But we can’t look beyond Game 4,” Cone said.
“Our battle cry when we were down 2-0 is to let’s get this to a Game 5, let the chips fall where they may. We got another game ahead of us. Taking another game at a time is an old cliché.”