Defense fuels Bay Area Dragons

Stanley Pringle of Ginebra has a hard time penetrating Kobey Lam’s airtight defense in Game 2 of their PBA Commissioner’s Cup best-of-seven finals series. Photo courtesy of PBA Images

Bay Area – the most explosive team in the Philippine Basketball Association – had displayed a different facet in its game when it pulled off a masterful 99-82 victory over Barangay Ginebra San Miguel in Game 2 of their Commissioner’s Cup best-of-seven finals series late Wednesday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

The Dragons marched into the match with a defensive mindset.

In fact, they flaunted their defensive superiority from start to finish with only two Kings ending up in double figures, including Justin Brownlee who delivered a team-high 32 points.

Jamie Malonzo also emerged in double figures with 10 points but he was quiet in the first and fourth, allowing the Dragons to come up with a strong start and an even stronger finish.

Even reigning Most Valuable Player Scottie Thompson and guard LA Tenorio were hardly a factor as they were held a single-digit production while being grounded when the game was on the line.

The Dragons also held the Kings to only 38 percent shooting from the field to suffer their worst loss in a finals series since Game 3 of the 2020 Philippine Cup against TNT Tropang Giga, 88-67.

It is also the Kings’ worst loss with Brownlee as their import since suffering a 132-94 setback to San Miguel Beer in Game 3 of the Commissioner’s Cup in 2018.

But more than anything, the 82 points that the Kings scored was their fewest since posting an 83-74 victory over Meralco in Game 3 of the Governors’ Cup finals last year, no thanks to the suffocating Dragons defense.

“Everything started defensively and I want to make sure that I play good defense,” said Zhu Songwei, Bay Area’s starting forward who stepped up big in Game 2, through an interpreter.

“When things start well on defense, everything else follows.”

After struggling with foul troubles in Game 1, Zhu was a picture of concentration in Game 2 as he knocked down 25 points, including three three-pointers.
He capped his solid game by dishing out six assists, grabbing five rebounds, picking up a steal and coming away with a +17 in efficiency rating.

“Zhu kept him (Brownlee) under control and helped us get the lead and then, we competed with them in the glass,” Dragons coach Brian Goorjian said.

“The first game, Brownlee is a key situation. He got three fouls early and wasn’t a factor in the first game. This Ginebra team is unbelievable disciplined. They are a great basketball team and they are very well-coached. Brownlee though is a key factor and this matchup with Zhu is key.”

Andrew Nicholson and Hayden Blankley, two players known as offensive threats, also worked double time on the defensive end.

After being held down to a conference-low 27 points in the series opener, Nicholson produced 30 points in Game 2 while tallying two blocks and pulling down 15 rebounds.

Blankley, meanwhile, shot all blanks from beyond the arc in Game 1 and missed all his nine shots from the three-point region.

But he rediscovered his shooting touch in Game 2, hitting three of his six attempts from rainbow country.

Still, Blankley’s presence was felt more clearly on the defensive end as he swatted five shots.

“They made the proper adjustment tonight. They really disrupted our offense and we couldn’t get to our spots,” Ginebra coach Tim Cone said.

“I think one thing that we learned is that we just started to feel like we just showed up and win, and we can’t do that against this team that’s way, way too good, too big, too athletic – and too well-coached.”


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