SLAM PH Rewatch: Beyond Brownlee’s title-clincher

We all got nothing but time.

That’s why the SLAM PH Team decided to rewatch some of their favorite UAAP, PBA and NBA games. They dug up buried emotions, watched out for things that they missed and basically enjoyed two hours of good basketball.

Not a bad way to spend a couple of hours.

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think about Game 6 of the 2016 PBA Governor’s Cup Finals a lot.

It comes up nearly every time the Meralco Bolts and Barangay Ginebra play each other, which has been a lot as of recent, especially in those certain similar settings.

It doesn’t feel any better thinking about it or even re-watching short highlights of it, considering I was (and still am) rooting for Meralco. But the game was a you-know-exactly-where-you-were-watching-this vibe and that was the case for me. It is a demon inside me and seems like it might always will.

It was raining that night in Hong Kong which affected the internet connection that I was using to watch the game over a “non-traditional” streaming option. In a sense, I had my movements limited at the time due to the rain, similar to the situation at hand right now (in some way I guess?).

So when the assignment was given out to talk about re-visiting a game during this “lockdown” situation, my mind traced back to this particular game.

Again, I’d be lying if I said I don’t think about this game a lot.

But I’ve never actually re-watched the entire 48 minutes of action all over again in it’s entirety (aka torture) and this seemed like as good a time as any… so here goes.

My memory is horrible for in-game details so I pretty much remembered only “The Shot” from this game. Re-watching it really gave me a chance to get a better perspective of the game and further rip open the wound that is my Bolts fandom.

Quickfire Thoughts

There are some stuff that I’ll be going into detail later about this game, but here are some things that are kind of scattered all over the place that don’t really fit in one category but deserves a mention.

  • I would not have said I remembered that Chris Ellis played in this game. Ellis is a player that I’ve seen a lot recently since he practiced for his Laos team at the same gym where I play pick up in Thailand. I had no recollection of him being in the game before this re-watch, but there he was on the floor in the second half. He scored just less than under a minute being in the game. A couple of plays later, he threw down an alley-oop assisted by Justin Brownlee. I made sure to take note of plays or sequences that ignited the famous “GI-NE-BRA” chants in this game. This was the only one that wasn’t a Brownlee basket.
    Chris Ellis, ladies and gentlemen.
  • In two consecutive sequences during the fourth quarter, Kelly Nabong ripped a rebound along with Dave Marcelo, which resulted in Marcelo laying on the floor, before launching a three-pointer immediately the next time he caught the ball. He was 1-3 from downtown leading up to that moment the entire season. What a heat check.
  • Ginebra was without Greg Slaughter and Meralco was without Jared Dillinger. Both would eventually get their first titles later anyway. With Ginebra. Whatever.

Okay, let’s move on to some juicier stuff.

The Rookies

I remember Chris Newsome winning the Rookie of the Year that season and he played like one… in the first half. He started the game with all the confidence in the world, knocking down midrange jumpers and torpedoing himself into the lane. He had me believing – even during the re-watch – that Meralco was going to win this game.

The Bolts had started the first quarter on fire, but Brownlee was initiating a comeback. After the first Brownlee three, the first “GI-NE-BRA” chant erupted.

In the immediate play after, Newsome drove right into the paint, got a flagrant foul from Jervy Cruz, and somehow made the layup to silence the crowd quickly. I remember thinking that the Bolts were going to be fine.

Scottie Thompson also had a great rookie season, but there was just too much talent on his team to shine like how Newsome did. But on this stage, he was oozing that superstar aura. Even without scoring in bunches, Scottie did Scottie things and everyone recognized him for it. The hustle plays and rebounds and just all the little things. This wasn’t the first time he had displayed these things, but it all just shined so brightly in this moment.

I refuse to believe this, especially after watching this game for a second time, but Thompson had only one rebound to go with a solid 10 points.

Newsome was spectacular with 19 points and seven boards. He even made a crucial three late in the game which was a sequence where he traded triples with Scottie while guarding each other. But he only had five points in the second half and that was a pretty significant drop in the flow of the game for Meralco.

The Veterans

If you asked be immediately after the game to pick one of the three vets between Jimmy Alapag, Mark Caguioa, and Jayjay Helterbrand as a best bet for who would still be playing four years later, I would have picked Alapag.

He was the calm, rock solid point guard that the Bolts needed. It wasn’t hard to imagine that he could still play that same role for a couple more years. The passes he was making in this game were still at a high-level!

I remember that Alapag had just broken the All-Time three-point shooting record early in the series and it looked like he could still add more distance between whoever was next in line.

Of course, Coach Jimmy announced his retirement not long after the end of the series which would have made me look stupid had someone actually asked the hypothetical question.

This is not a knock on either Helterbrand of Caguioa. They each had their moments in this game and combined for 11 points, but if I had only one pick to select only one guy that I would expect to still be in the PBA after reaching the age of 40, it would have been Alapag.

All three were on the floor right in the middle of the heated fourth quarter, too.

Sniping Papa Rey

I intentionally left Reynel Hugnatan out of the previous section because Papa Rey deserves his own category.

Coach Alex Compton, if I’m not mistaken, said it best after another big three by Hugnatan late in the fourth: “He wasn’t even taking them accidentally [before this]!”

Which was absolutely true! Hugnatan had taken only 23 threes combined in the previous four seasons, a number which he surpassed in the first 5 games of this Finals series alone. He made a three in each and every game of this series and finished the season with a three-point shooting clip of just under 40%. Papa Rey continued to remain in the role of a stretch four from that point on.

If you really look at it, this series was where Hugnatan discovered his shooting stroke in him. Keep firing away and bringing the heat on your feet, Papa Rey.

Not talked about enough

Of course, “The Shot” was a bigger moment in this game. However, it does also feel a bit unfair that it overshadowed what a huge second half LA Tenorio had. He just kept knocking down those runners off the drive. It felt like he was stuck in a loop and the Bolts just had no answer for it.

He dropped 21 of his 25 points all in the second half, mostly in the crucial third quarter where Ginebra finally reclaimed the lead.

To be honest, I’m only bringing this up because there was not a single “GI-NE-BRA” chant started as a result of any of LA’s big shots… but yes, an alley-oop slam by Air Force Ellis got that chant going.

The Imports

Allen Durham is awesome. There is no doubt about that. But this is where it hurt the most.

With the way the Bolts were built, they needed Durham to “hulk out” every game. I don’t think that’s a slight to any of the other players; It’s just how the team was built.

He was averaging 31.6 points and 17.2 rebounds per game in the series before that game. Ginebra figured it out that they needed to get the ball out of his hands and force the others to make plays.

Though the other Bolts stepped up, it wasn’t enough.

Re-watching the beautiful play before “The Shot” and I remembered how dumbfounded I was that Durham had missed that layup. Durham did have his least amount of attempts of the Finals during that game. Was it a lack of touches leading up to that moment? We’ll never know.

Justin Brownlee, on the other hand, had a quiet, but weirdly also loud 31 points. He never really disappeared from the game, but there always seemed to be someone else on the team who was soaking up the spotlight, up until the last few minutes.

The signs were always there that the game would end the way it did. He kept knocking those threes at the top of the key and was allowed to keep taking them. And then…

The Shot

“He lets fly!” Charlie Cuna sounded as his voice trailed along with the arc of Brownlee’s game winning shot.

I remember that the first time I watched Brownlee’s shot, the stream buffered just as the ball was midway going towards the basket. By the time the stream restarted, confetti was also falling all over the screen and the game was over.

There was no buffering this time in the re-watch.

Because of my awesome internet connection at home, I watched as the shot sink through, wedging a dagger right into my heart. It was weird because I hadn’t actually watched the moment in real-time or in the flow of watching an entire game – just in the highlights that came after – until now.

Re-watching that Game 6 now, in all of it’s glory, you really get a feel of how much impact that shot actually had.

It was the exclamation point to Ginebra’s first title in eight years. It stamped Brownlee’s name forever in the history books of PBA basketball. Looking to the other end of the court, it lit a fire in Meralco. There is no doubt that losing this series fired them up to a certain extent to meet up two more times in this same setting.

Thinking about the possibilities if Brownlee had missed the shot also gives you a picture of how big of a moment it was. Would Japeth have emerged as a legit MVP candidate that he is today, after nearly blowing this game with a turnover on a bad pass? How long would Tim Cone last with the team if they had failed to win this game and go on to lose the series? Similarly, how different would Durham and Brownlee’s career be viewed if the tables were turned in those last two plays?

These are just some of the things that you think about in these isolated moments when you take the time to go back and re-watch one of the biggest moments in the history of the PBA… no matter how much it hurts.

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