Ginebra overpowers San Miguel, draws first blood in the 2018 PBA Finals

MANILA, Philippines – It just took Justin Brownlee 3 full quarters with 42 points to beat the defending champions San Miguel Beermen, 127-99 and sealed Game 1 of the 2018 Commissioner's Cup Finals on Friday, July 27 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Justin Brownlee posted a solid 42 points to lift up Ginebra in their Finals game 1
Justin Brownlee posted a solid 42 points to lift up Ginebra in their Finals game 1 win versus San Miguel | Photo Credit:

Even though Ginebra is the crowd favorite, PBA fans are really rooting for San Miguel to win the 2018 Commissioner’s Cup Finals simply because the Beermen have the edge in terms of firepower.

The Gin Kings are all out to defy all the odds and prove everyone that they are capable of beating anyone, even the defending champs. Aside from the Barangay, Ginebra is banking heavily on its “Never Say Die” attitude.

As soon as both squads unfolded their best-of-seven series, Ginebra pounded San Miguel offensively to take the early lead.

Just couple of months ago in the ABL, Justin Brownlee and Renaldo Balkman teamed-up to bring the ASEAN basketball title back to the country. But starting tonight, they set the brotherhood aside and became arch nemesis on the floor.

So far, in this conference, Justin Brownlee is dominating the league with 30 points and 14 rebounds per game in average. Brownlee made it sure that he’s bringing his winning attitude in this series. So at the end of the opener, he already had 18 points and his team led San Miguel by 15, 35-20.

If Brownlee owned the 1st quarter, his counterpart, Balkman took the 2nd period from him. Slowly but surely, the NBA veteran was carving Ginebra’s double-digit lead.

The Beermen were behind Ginebra not because they got beaten up by Justin Brownlee. It was because no local aside from June Mar Fajardo was helping Renaldo Balkman in the offensive department.

In order to preserve his personal fouls for the 2nd half, Coach Leo Austria opted to sit out Renaldo Balkman and let his locals do the job. It fired back massively however, as Justin Brownlee found his rhythm anew and finished the half with 29 points and Ginebra widened its margin to 19, 69-50.

Coach Austria tried a different combination with the hopes of levelling Ginebra’s intensity. He placed his bet on his top pick, Christian Standhardinger and it somehow paid off as the Fil-German delivered what he was expected to do amidst the long scoring hibernation of his teammates.

The efforts of Standhardinger however was not enough compared to the grit and hustle showed by Scotty Thompson, Joe Devance and Kevin Ferrer in the 3rd quarter.

The Beermen had no answer to Ginebra’s three-point madness. Unbelievably, SMB gunners were all ice cold. Alex Cabagnot and Marcio Lassiter for instance, only jotted down 2 and 6 points apiece entering the final canto.

San Miguel still can’t get out of Ginebra’s 19-point advantage at the end of the 3rd period. 94-75 In favor of Gins.

Woes continued for SMB as Ginebra surprised them with a more triples as they started the 4th quarter plus Balkman began to cramp up.

The lead ballooned to 36 with 8 more minutes left in the game. Coach Austria sensed that they were done for this game so he pulled out his starters one by one even there was still ample time to play. Likewise, Coach Tim Cone sent his third-stringers in to finish the game.

Justin Brownlee just spent few minutes in the fourth and left the floor with 42 big points and a sure game 1 win.

As the final horn sounded, Ginebra officially crossed game 1 in their best-of-seven duel, 127-99.

Game 2 will be on Sunday, July 29, 2018 at 6:30 pm at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

— Joey Boy Capos, The Summit Express

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