PBA Finals Primer: Ginebra’s Defensive Activity and Nicholson’s Health

The Gin Kings’ activity on defense and Andrew Nicholson’s health headline Game 4 of the Ginebra-Bay Area battle in the 2022 PBA Commissioner’s Cup Finals.

Original photos via PBA Images

PBA Friday Game (January 6, 2023)

Venue: Mall of Asia Arena

Barangay Ginebra versus Bay Area Dragons – 2022 PBA Commissioner’s Cup Finals Game 4 (5:45 PM)

Game 3 Quick Recap

Barangay Ginebra hit the buckets that mattered most, mounting an 89-82 comeback win over the Bay Area Dragons in Game 3 of the 2022 PBA Commissioner’s Cup Finals. Volume over efficiency turned out to be an ally for the Gin Kings, particularly with the abundant opportunities they had from the free throw line. Justin Brownlee’s takeover in the fourth quarter, plus a couple of clutch threes from Jamie Malonzo and LA Tenorio, capped the Ginebra comeback victory.

Top Performers in Game 3

  • Justin Brownlee

    34 points, 17 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals, 15-20 FT

  • Andrew Nicholson

    23 points, 24 rebounds, 2 blocks, 62% FG

Can Ginebra sustain their energy on defense?

The free throw disparity was an obvious issue in Game 3, with Ginebra getting to the charity stripe 38 times, compared to Bay Area’s 10 free throw attempts. Christian Standhardinger was consistent in bodying up to Andrew Nicholson all game long, disrupting the Dragons’ offensive flow and making it harder for them to get the ball inside.

But it wasn’t just Standhardinger delivering the goods on defense. Ginebra’s ball pressure was evident as early as the first quarter, and they were able to sustain that energy until their game-sealing run in the payoff period. They forced Bay Area to 20 turnovers in Game 3, with Scottie Thompson’s game-high four steals leading the way.

There were surely several non-calls that Ginebra got away with, particularly with Standhardinger being overly aggressive with Nicholson at times. But unless the referees call those fouls, Ginebra should be in a good spot if they keep up this high level of energy on defense in Game 4.

How healthy is Nicholson on Game 4?

Even with relatively limited touches (average of 24.5 field goal attempts), Nicholson still finished with 23 points in the Game 3 loss. With his footwork and patience down low, there’s just no stopping Nicholson once he receives the ball inside.

But getting him touches was a problem for Bay Area, and Nicholson’s recent injury might heighten that issue even more. The 6-foot-10 big man will be a go in Game 4, but how healthy will he be? The ankle sprain looked bad, and he was not able to walk on his own when he exited the arena.

Getting Nicholson moving via ball screens or backdoor cuts was Bay Area’s counter against Standhardinger’s physicality when they won in Game 2. But the ankle injury will surely affect Nicholson’s mobility in the next game, which means that the other Dragons will have to step up their game. 

Glen Yang was more aggressive in Game 3 than he was in the first two games, but can he put up a more efficient showing than the 5-of-17 shooting he produced in the last timeout? Yang’s efficiency, Songwei Zhu’s battle with foul trouble, and Kobey Lam’s and Hayden Blankley’s outside shooting will be essential for the Dragons to make up for a possibly limited Nicholson in Game 4. 

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