MANILA, Philippines — Ginebra coach Tim Cone used the Chicago Bulls, the most dominant NBA team in the 1990s, to remind his players of the importance of tonight’s Game 1 against Meralco.
Greg Slaughter, the seven-foot Gin King, said he will keep it in mind when the finals of the PBA Governors Cup fires off tonight out of town.
“It’s very important. We were just talking about it in practice earlier,” said Slaughter, who nursed a knee injury when Ginebra scored on a buzzer-beater to beat Meralco for the title last year.
“Coach Tim gave us an example of how the Bulls during their time won 15 of 16 Game Ones in their post-season appearances,” he said.
The Bulls, starring Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, won all their six NBA crowns in a decade, with titles coming in 1991, 1992, 1993, 1996, 1997 and 1998.
Slaughter is in his first PBA final, and tonight’s game will give him a feel of how important any series opener is.
“It’s going to be a very important game because by winning Game One you’ll know that you can get better while the other team has to react to losing,” he said.
While it’s so important, the former Ateneo Blue Eagle, who played under now Meralco coach Norman Black, knows that championships are not won in Game 1.
“It’s a very crucial game but it’s not the whole series,” said Slaughter.
Meralco topped the eliminations with the type of defense that can create problems for any high-scoring team like Ginebra.
In their only meeting so far this conference, Meralco beat Ginebra, 93-78, on July 23. That’s the lowest output this season for Ginebra, a team that broke the century mark 10 times this conference, and scored over 120 points three times.
The Bolts, seeking their first PBA crown, are the tournament’s best defensive team, limiting their opponents to just 88.81 points so far. In the semis, it held the normally explosive Star Hotshots to 66 points in the opener.
Slaughter can’t deny the fact.
“We know how great a defensive team Meralco is and hopefully we can just sustain our game and not let their defense dictate our game,” said Slaughter, who can’t tell whether the series will be a long or short one.
“You can’t tell. You just have to look at it one game at a time. I’m not trying to look how many games it will be and would rather look at it one game at a time,” he said.
“Like in any championship series it’s the top two teams left so it’s not gonna be easy,” Slaughter added.
What’s quite certain is that the series will be a tough one, for the players and the coaches.
Commissioner Chito Narvasa said he knows what to expect.
“These two coaches won’t sleep for the next two weeks,” he said.