Barangay Ginebra PBA finals

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LA Tenorio is no stranger to the perils of close-out games. And against a plucky side hell-bent on breaking loose from Barangay Ginebra’s clutches, the veteran playmaker couldn’t help but be doubly wary.

“We’ll definitely go for [the title]. But again, it’s not going to be easy,” he said of clinching the PBA Governors’ Cup. “We still have to take a look at what Meralco has been doing.”

“Even though we had a good shooting night as a team [in Game 5], Meralco was still there, holding on,” he added.

Tenorio and the Gin Kings got one more day to do all that troubleshooting following a fire incident that pushed Game 6 to Friday at Mall of Asia Arena.

But on the other hand, that also gave the Bolts an extra day to plot and recharge for the clash that unfurls at 6 p.m.

And nobody from Meralco should benefit from the extended break more than Chris Banchero, who has been playing through an assortment of injuries this series.

“In fairness to him, he’s actually been playing hurt,” said Meralco coach Norman Black. “So I’m more grateful that he’s out there on the basketball court giving it a try than, you know, just not giving it a try.”

Banchero, a mid-conference pickup, has been a steadying presence for Meralco these playoffs. He has been turning in commendable contributions on scoring as well until that physical Final Four series against top-seeded Magnolia.

“I’m hoping Chris will be OK,” said Black. “I’m hoping he’d step up and be more productive and help us win.”

Meralco is hoping to channel its gutsy Game 6 form in the 2017 championship series against Ginebra. There, before 53,642 fans at the cavernous Philippine Arena, the Bolts leaned on its local cast led by Reynel Hugnatan and Garvo Lanete to send the series to a winner-take-all contest.

And as fate would have it, the league has already tapped the Bulacan site should the Bolts be successful at forcing yet another rubber match.

The PBA has been setting crowd attendance by the game in this series despite the persisting threat of the coronavirus pandemic. Game 6 was witnessed by 18,251 souls, with PBA commissioner Willie Marcial expecting to set a new pandemic-era record should this race go the distance.

The league set its all-time attendance record in that 2017 finalé, packing the Philippine Arena with 54,086 fans.

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