More minutes to go around as Tinyente still hurt.
The Barangay Ginebra Gin Kings averted an opening-game collapse against the Rain or Shine Elastopainters, and they can obviously thank the usual suspects: Justin Brownlee (29 points, 10 rebounds, 11 assists), Japeth Aguilar (18 points), and Scottie Thompson (15 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists).
But Ginebra needed one more hero, and it was John “Nards” Pinto who answered the call.
Pinto scattered 8 of the 21 points Ginebra scored in the final minute of the third and the first four of the fourth to turn a 72-81 deficit into a 93-93 deadlock with 8:33 left. He finished with 12 markers, including a step-back jumper down the stretch to extend the Gin Kings’ lead to six, 99-93. That production was on top of his usual stout, aggressive defense and contagious energy.
“Binibigay ko lang ‘yung best ko every time na binibigyan ako ng minutes,” the soft-spoken Pinto pointed out post-game.
The veteran guard got a lot of minutes against Rain or Shine, all right—20 in all. And Pinto made every one of them count. He will have to keep doing so because more minutes are likely coming his way, what with Ginebra captain LA Tenorio still nursing the abdominal strain he suffered in the Commissioner’s Cup finals.
“He had a little bit of a tweak of his abdominal muscle,” said Tim Cone of Tenorio, who played just a little over 2 minutes against Rain or Shine. “The idea was to play him late in the first [quarter] and see how he felt, and then start him in the second quarter and see how long he could.”
But it appears all is not well with Tenorio yet, which means Pinto will be counted upon just a bit more.
“He [Tenorio] was under a definite minutes restriction. We’re trying to keep him under 15 minutes if we could, but then, he started feeling a bit of a twinge in his abdominal, so we pulled him out,” added Cone. “Hopefully he’ll get ready to go out and play maybe a little bit more minutes in the next game…”
While Cone appreciates Tenorio’s warrior mentality, he also knows Pinto will have to play a vital role for Ginebra as Tinyente continues to recuperate.
“That’s why Nards is so absolutely crucial because we wanted to keep Scottie’s minutes down a little bit and we didn’t think LA would have a lot of minutes.”
Those minutes are Pinto’s for the taking. He just proved he deserves them.