Aguilar's surprise start helps Kings topple TNT
MANILA, Philippines – Brgy. Ginebra Kings borrowed a page from the New York Knicks and Willis Reed when Japeth Aguilar started and provided the energy and inspiration to push the league’s most popular ballclub to the playoffs after a 110-102 victory over Talk n Text on Wednesday.
Like the legendary Reed in that Game 7 victory of the Knicks in the 1970 NBA Finals, nobody knew that Aguilar would play in Tuesday’s knockout game against rival Talk n Text.
Aguilar was supposed to come back from an MCL injury next week but the 25-year old big man could not bear to see his team go down fighting with their season on the line.
The surprise start provided an extra ounce of energy and inspiration that was enough to rattle the Tropang Texters.
“Talagang gusto niyang maglaro at plinano namin ng maayos,” Ginebra coach Ato Agustin told Philstar.com after the game.
“Tiningnan namin on how he respond sa game. Kanina akala naming tinamaan kaya nilabas ko siya. Hindi ko na ibinalik kasi ang ganda na ng umpisa namin ayaw na naming gumamble sa ganung sitwasyon,”Agustin said. “Nag-start siya ng maganda at okay na yun sa amin.”
Aguilar played for only the first five minutes but his mere presence inside the court gave the Kings the much-needed spunk on defense.
Tangibly, he produced two points, one rebound and a shot block but the intangibles pushed the Kings to a hot start.
The Kings went on a zone early careful not to give Aguilar too much movement on defense but the athletic 6-9 forward-center exerted effort to alter several Talk n Text shots around the basket.
“Blessing in disguise lang kasi kung hindi ako pinasok ni coach (Ato) kanina, hindi kami magzo-zone. Nakabuti sa team at dun kami nag-build ng momentum,” Aguilar told Philstar.com.
Aguilar said he’s close to getting back to game shape but cautioned not to get overexcited.
“Masakit pa rin but I’m getting there,” Aguilar said.
Up against a more solid Petron Blaze Boosters in another do-or-die game for them on Thursday, Agustin intends to give Aguilar another run.
“Of course, he’ll play. Pero hindi ko ipa-promise na ibababad ko siya,” Agustin said. “We’ll see.”