Barangay Ginebra virtually secured a quarterfinals spot in the 2020 PBA Philippine Cup playoff, clinching a 112-100 win against NorthPort on Wednesday evening as it became the first team to win in back-to-back days in the adjusted bubble schedule.
Kings is now tied with TNT in the standings with a 6-2 slate, dishing out a season-high 37 assists in what coach Tim Cone described as “team’s step-up” in the competition during the after-game interview on Wednesday evening.
Japheth Aguilar, the 2019 Governor’s Cup most valuable player (MVP), entered the PBA bubble less than two weeks after undergoing laparoscopic surgery to remove his appendix. The team’s six-foot-nine center was visibly groping for form in the past few games, only averaging 9 points and 4.5 rebounds.
Cone, who is hard-pressed with the bubble schedule, deliberately left out Aguilar to play the entire game stretches to “make him better for the next game”.
“I keep telling him, ‘No, you are staying in there. You need to run up and down’,” Cone was reportedly quoted.
As Japeth struggles to work his way back into shape, a Pringle-led Ginebra slams to the top of the playoffs.
Stanley Pringle, who has been named “best player of the game” back-to-back, consistently dominated the Kings’ charge mounting 17 points on Wednesday. The Kings ended their two-game skid on Tuesday thanks to Pringle who straddled a staggering 31 points and six rebounds game with Alaska.
Cone, who was then admittedly ready to take the blame for an impending defeat, was full of praise for his Fil-Am starting guard.
“Stanley is not a spoiled superstar. He doesn’t think about himself at any moment. He is really easy, follows instructions; he does all the work, shows up every practice. He just doesn’t have a superstar attitude, plus, he will take on a tough defensive assignment,” Cone said.
Kings is set for a showdown for the top spot with the rival-ranking TNT on Friday (November 6), in what Cone believes to be “played with a different approach”. If Kings were to maintain in the top four, Friday’s faceoff with TNT is crucial.
“We’re not really worried about top speed. We’re worried about the top four. We’re just looking at TNT as a team that’s in front of us head-to-head, and we need to beat. If we beat them, that gives us a better chance at the top four,” Cone said.