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    Gin Kings tame Dragons for 2-1 PBA Commissioner's Cup Finals lead

    MANILA, Philippines – Barangay Ginebra San Miguel rallied and overcame a big Bay Area Dragons advantage to post a 89-82 win and a 2-1 series lead on January 4, 2023 at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.

    The well-deserved New Year break obviously took toll on both Barangay Ginebra San Miguel and Bay Area Dragons as both squads struggled to put a digit on the scoreboard within the first two minutes of game number three.

    Gin Kings tame Dragons for 2-1 PBA Commissioner's Cup Finals lead
    Justin Brownlee started the game slow but finished waxing hot with 37 points to give Ginebra a 2-1 series lead. Photo Credit: PBA

    It was Scottie Thompson who broke the deafening silence on the court followed by Justin Brownlee. Until then, the Gin Kings went into scoring hiatus for almost five minutes.

    The Dragons, courtesy of Zhu Songwei, turned the tides in their favor as they jotted down a decent lead early in the opening quarter.

    Despite scoring low, the Gin Kings managed to neutralize Andrew Nicholson and made the NBA veteran commit two early personal fouls. Nicholson went straight to the bench but was subbed by 7’5” titan Liu Chuanxing.

    Ginebra capitalized on the Dragon’s tall but slow lineup and leveled the score at 16 at the end of quarter number one.

    The basketball gods may not have been on Brownlee’s side early in tonight’s game but it was the locals, spearheaded by Christian Standhardinger who stepped up in the second quarter as the Gin Kings tasted the lead for the very first time.

    Bay Area’s Glen Yang cut Ginebra’s celebration short as the flashy guard owned the shaded lane to regain the lead and even ramped it up to double figures with under five minutes remaining at the half.

    Nothing was easy for Ginebra in the first half, but its resident import came back alive in the final phase of the second to diffuse the fiery Dragons and trim the lead down to just a shot, 37-35 after the first two quarters.

    Up by only a deuce, the Dragons knew that they have to do better to check Barangay Ginebra and quiet its sixth man: the humongous crowd. As they opened the second half, the visitors started to unleash a barrage of three pointers to widen the gap.

    Ginebra tried to close in but the Dragons, led by Kobey Lam this time, kept on pummeling the home team from beyond the arc plus their defense had been glue-tight in the third period.

    The Gin Kings attempted to give the Dragons their own dose of medicine but they shot blanks from the three point line instead.

    An 11-4 Barangay Ginebra run in the melting minutes of the penultimate quarter re-ignited the crowd and the Gin Kings found themselves behind by 7 points, 63-56 entering the final canto of the game.

    Brownlee and Nicholson did a shoot out at the beginning of the fourth but it was the Bay Area import who had the slight edge as his team maintained its advantage.

    A sigh of relief for Barangay Ginebra as bay Area wingman, Hayden Blankley was fouled out in the middle of the fourth quarter and Brownlee started to wax hot and take over the game.

    From being down by as much as 15 points, Barangay Ginebra re-ignited the pack as they even the score at the two-minute warning.

    The 15,000 paying-patrons even got wild as the Gin Kings nailed a five-point lead under a minute left via a Thompson-putback followed by a Malonzo-tiriple.

    Lam hit a late three pointer but it was not enough to salvage a win. Brownlee who had a 34-17 terrific performance put the cherry on the top for an 89-82 victory and above all, took pivotal game number three.

    Game four will be on Friday, January 6, 2022 with the momentum on Ginebra’s side and Dragons’ Nicholson is more likely to be out due to an ankle sprain that he sustained in the final seconds of the game.

    — Joey Boy Capos, The Summit Express
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