PBA Finals Game 1: Simon Says
byon 04-24-2012 at 09:06 AM (384 Views)
Over 13,000 paying fans came to watch what many described as the most evenly matched championship series in a long while. They were not disappointed. BMEG started the game with all guns blazing then finished strong to hang on for the 88 – 82 victory over heavily favored Talk N Text.
Coach Tim Cone took no chances with his starting unit, going with his two best local gunners in former MVP James Yap and Peter June Simon. While Yap would go on to have a so-so game, at least by his personal standards, Simon would shine at various critical stages of the game. Simon scored eight of his 18 points in a pivotal fourth-period spurt to overturn a five-point TNT lead. Not bad for a guy who was a fifth-round draftee some 11 years ago. “Nagkataon lang siguro maganda shooting ko,” said the soft-spoken shooting guard out of the University of Mindanao.
Cone was a little more appreciative than his so-called second star. “We basically rode PJ in that stretch,” said the multi-titled bench boss. “He was making his shots and he was really filling the lanes so he had a little bit of everything going for him,” Cone added. Simon connected on nine of his 11 shots, a mind-boggling percentage in an era of volume shooting.
Simon however was not the only reason the Llamados were able to draw first blood in this series. Averaging a little over 100 points per game, the Tropang Texters were held down to only 82 points by the stifling BMEG defense. Forward-center Jean Marc Pingris led the defensive effort, mostly matching up against TNT import and NBA veteran Donnel Harvey. Credit also goes to the pesky perimeter defense of pointguard Josh Urbiztondo, who started for Cone in this game. “We just hunkered down on defense when we got into a bit of a dry spell, and lucky for us they weren’t making their jumpshots,” Cone said.
Pingris also chipped in 11 points, mostly with the bigger Harvey on him. Urbiztondo put the clamps on reigning MVP Jimmy Alapag, while setting the table for the Llamados. “Jimmy is always a tough match-up, you just have to get in your stance and try to make things a little more difficult for him,” Urbiztondo explained.
Making things even more difficult for TNT was their awful shooting from the foul line. TNT just could not seem to sink a shot from the 15-foot line. “You can’t win a game if you miss 20 free throws,” Coach Chot Reyes rued. “I can’t help them there; I can’t shoot free throws for them,” he added, with frustration clear in his voice.
BMEG basically played three great quarters of solid basketball, essentially giving up the third period to TNT. “That is not a good recipe to follow,” said Cone. Indeed, with a team as deep and talented as TNT, all it takes is a good run of a few minutes for them to overturn a deficit and suddenly charge ahead and bury opponents. “We can’t give Talk N Text a quarter because they can blow you out in that span.”
Cone could not get anything from his bench in that third period, as guard Mark Barroca, power forward Joe Devance and forward JC Intal suddenly could not buy a basket. Barroca and Devance made some baskets coming off the bench in the second period but suddenly went cold for much of the third. “They should probably bring back at least one of their three scorers – James Yap, Simon or Denzel Bowles,” noted TV panelist and Rain or Shine Coach Yeng Guiao.
Luckily for Cone things turned around just in time in the payoff fourth period as Simon rediscovered his scoring touch along with Bowles. “If he hadn’t gotten into foul trouble I would’ve kept him in the game throughout the entire second half,” Cone declared with a slight grin.
Bowles led all scorers with 25 points, matching the production of the older Harvey. Bowles is the leading contender for the Best Import Award for the Commissioner’s Cup.
Simon was the leading local scorer with 18 points. Alapag had 12 for TNT.