MANILA, Philippines As the PBA Commissioner’s Cup semifinals unfold, both the Barangay Ginebra Gin Kings and the Phoenix Super LPG Fuel Masters find themselves grappling with daunting 0-2 deficits in their respective best-of-five series against San Miguel and Magnolia. While history reveals the inherent challenges of overcoming such deficits, both teams draw inspiration from past instances of remarkable comebacks in the PBA playoffs.
In a twist of fate, both Ginebra and Magnolia were pivotal players in the only two occurrences of teams rallying from 0-2 down to clinch a best-of-five series. The most recent of these remarkable turnarounds transpired in the 2009-10 PBA Philippine Cup quarterfinals when Ginebra orchestrated a memorable comeback against the Talk ‘N Text Tropang Texters. Despite dropping the first two games, the Gin Kings reignited their hopes with a hard-fought 102-97 victory in Game 3.
The pivotal Game 4 took an unexpected turn as Ginebra was awarded a forfeit win after Talk ‘N Text controversially walked out in the first quarter, facing a 27-20 deficit. This unprecedented move resulted in a hefty fine of over P1 million for the Tropang Texters. Undeterred, Ginebra sealed the comeback with a resounding 113-100 triumph in the decisive Game 5 on February 7, 2010, advancing to the next round.
Current Ginebra assistant coach Willie Wilson played a vital role in that historic comeback, providing valuable experience in navigating such high-stakes situations. Adding an intriguing layer to the narrative, Ginebra veteran Jared Dillinger was on the opposing Talk ‘N Text side that experienced the heartbreak of blowing a 2-0 series lead 13 years ago.
As the Gin Kings and the Fuel Masters look to the past for inspiration, they aim to script their own tales of redemption in the ongoing semifinal series. The PBA playoffs are known for their unpredictability, and with the resilience showcased by teams like Ginebra in the past, both squads harbor hopes of rewriting the narrative and defying the odds to mount comebacks of their own in the quest for championship glory.
The other memorable comeback from a 0-2 deficit came all the way back in the 1990 PBA Third Conference Finals featuring the Alaska Milkmen against the Purefoods Hotdogs. Led by rookie coach Tim Cone, Alaska won the first two games before Purefoods kept their hopes alive with a Game 3 victory.
In the pivotal Game 4, Purefoods outlasted Alaska 99-98 in a thriller after Al Solis hit a clutch three-pointer late to provide the game-winning points. The Hotdogs, the predecessor of today’s Magnolia franchise, completed their rally by taking Game 5 to win the series.
Cone of course went on to become the PBA’s winningest coach ever, but back then he was on the wrong end of Purefoods’ historic comeback. One of Cone’s assistants on that 1990 Alaska team was Biboy Ravanes, now an assistant with the San Miguel Beermen.
So as much as the odds are stacked against them, Ginebra and Phoenix can draw inspiration from their franchises’ past feats. However, 0-2 comebacks remain extremely rare as teams that take a 2-0 lead go on to win the series 94% of the time. The physical and mental toll of rallying back to win three straight elimination games is simply too much for most teams.
But in the case of Ginebra, their never-say-die spirit under coach Tim Cone cannot be discounted. Cone’s own painful experience of being on the wrong end of a comeback could motivate him to avoid the same fate. Veterans like Justin Brownlee and Joe Devance provide the savvy needed in must-win situations.
Phoenix also has enough veteran composure and young energy to at least make Magnolia sweat. Matthew Wright, Jason Perkins and RJ Jazul have been in pressure cookers before, while young Javee Mocon’s energy could swing a game in Phoenix’s favor.
Ultimately, the odds remain overwhelmingly against both Ginebra and Phoenix. But the hope is that by channeling the resilience their predecessors showed in coming back from 0-2 down, they can make this year’s Commissioner’s Cup semifinals more competitive.
After lopsided defeats in Games 1 and 2, both the Gin Kings and Fuel Masters need to summon all their championship pride to fight their way back into their respective series. It would be an incredible story for the ages if either team could fully duplicate the rare comebacks their franchises previously achieved.